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Peritoneal relations

Learning objectives:

This study unit will help you to:

1. Learn about the abdominal cavity, its organs and recesses.
2. Gain an understanding of the peritoneum and its features.
3. Distinguish between the intraperitoneal and retroperitoneal structures.

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The peritoneum is a double-layered serous membrane that envelopes the abdominal organs and lines the walls of the abdominal cavity. The two layers are the visceral and parietal peritoneum.

According to their position in relation to the peritoneum, the organs of the abdominopevic region can be divided into two major groups: 

  1. Intraperitoneal organs
  2. Extraperitoneal organs (retroperitoneal and infraperitoneal)

Organs which are completely surrounded by visceral peritoneum and connected by mesentery are called intraperitoneal organs. Most intraperitoneal structures are associated with the gastrointestinal tract as this organization allows for both support and movement.

In contrast, organs located behind the parietal peritoneum are referred to as the retroperitoneal organs. If they develop and remain outside the peritoneum, they are referred to as the primary retroperitoneal organs. Secondary retroperitoneal organs initially develop within the peritoneum and become retroperitoneal when their mesentery fuses with the posterior abdominal wall during embryonic development. Infraperitoneal organs are organs that lie inferior to the peritoneal cavity. 

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of peritoneal relations:

Take a quiz 

Now that you have watched the video about peritoneal relations, test your knowledge by taking our quiz.

Browse atlas

Now you can study each structure individually with our image gallery: 


Key points about the peritoneal relations
Intraperitoneal structures Stomach, superior part of the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, cecum/appendix, transverse colon, sigmoid colon, liver, gallbladder, spleen, pancreas (tail), female reproductive organs (ovaries, uterus and uterine tubes)
Primary retroperitoneal organs Esophagus, anal canal, kidneys, suprarenal (adrenal) glands, ureters, aorta, inferior vena cava
Secondary retroperitoneal organs Pancreas (head, neck and body), distal duodenum, ascending colon, descending colon, proximal one-third of rectum
Infraperitoneal organs Inferior two thirds of rectum, urinary bladder 
Recesses Duodenal recesses, caecal recesses, intersigmoid recess

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