Human Anatomy – Introduction

The term ‘anatomy’ originated from the Greek word ‘anatomia’ which means ‘to dissect’.

Human anatomy is a branch of medicine deals with the study of structure of human body. We usually classify human anatomy into:

  •  histology and
  • gross anatomy.

Gross anatomy or macroscopic anatomy is the study of anatomical structures that can be seen grossly without the aid of magnification (microscope).

Histology is the study of minute anatomical structures that can be seen only with the aid of magnification.

The primary techniques one should use to learn anatomy is observation and visualisation. A sound knowledge of anatomy is mandatory for physicians, dentists, surgeons, physical therapists and every one who is involved in patient treatment. It allows one to understand and interpret clinical observations correctly.

There are two different approaches in studying anatomy with their own limitations and advantages.

  • Regional approach
  • Systemic approach

Regional approach:

With regional approach we study each region of the body separately and all the aspects of the region are studied at the same time. Example:  the abdomen, pelvis, lower limb, upper limb, back, thorax, head and neck.

Systemic approach:

With systemic approach we study each system of the body and followed throughout the body. Example: nervous system, cardiovascular system, skeletal system, muscular system, gastrointestinal system, respiratory system, lymphatic system and reticuloendothelial system.

The Anatomical position:

The position when a person stands erect with eyes looking forward to horizon, feet together, hands by the side of the body with palms facing forwards.

Important anatomical terms:

Anatomical planes – Anatomical planes are imaginary. There are 3 major groups of planes passing through our body in the anatomical position.

Three anatomical planesCoronal planes: These are vertical plane that divide the body into anterior and posterior parts.

Sagittal planes: These are vertical planes that divide the body into right and left parts and are at right angles to the coronal planes. The sagittal plane that divides it into equal right and left halves is called the median sagittal plane.

Transverse, horizontal or axial planes: These are horizontal planes that divide the body into superior and inferior parts.

Terms to describe locations: To describe the location of structures relative to the body or to other structures, we use three major groups of terms.

  1. Anterior (ventral) and posterior (dorsal);
  2. Medial and lateral;
  3. Superior and inferior.

Other terms used to describe positions include:

  1. Proximal and distal;
  2. Cranial and caudal;
  3. Superficial and deep;
  4. ipsilateral and contralateral;
  5. Radial and ulnar;
  6. Tibial and fibular;
  7. palmar / volar;
  8. plantar;
  9. Rostral (position of a structure relative to the nose).

Terms to describe movements:

  • Flexion, extension, adduction, abduction, medial and lateral rotation, circumduction, pronation, supination, protraction, retraction.

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