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Learning objectives

This study unit will help you to:

  1. Learn about the retroperitoneum and its subdivisions.
  2. List the primary and secondary retroperitoneal organs.
  3. Identify the neurovascular structures and organs of the retroperitoneal space.

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The peritoneum is a serous membrane that lines the walls of the abdominal cavity (parietal peritoneum) and wraps the abdominal and pelvic organs (visceral peritoneum). The retroperitoneum is a potential anatomical space located posterior to the peritoneal cavity and anterior to the posterior abdominal wall. It contains several organs which, due to their location behind the parietal peritoneum, are referred to as the retroperitoneal organs. These organs are part of several body systems including the urinary, circulatory, gastrointestinal and endocrine systems. The retroperitoneum can be divided into three individual spaces. These spaces are the:

  • Anterior pararenal space
  • Posterior pararenal space
  • Perirenal space

This video tutorial will provide you with an overview of the retroperitoneum.

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Now you can test your knowledge about the structures of the posterior wall of the peritoneal cavity with the following quiz:

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Key points about the retroperitoneum
Definition The retroperitoneum is a potential anatomical space located posterior to the parietal peritoneum.
Primary retroperitoneal organs Kidneys, suprarenal (adrenal) glands, ureter, aorta/inferior vena cava
Secondary retroperitoneal organs Pancreas, distal duodenum, ascending colon, descending colon
Spaces Anterior pararenal space, posterior pararenal space, perirenal space

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