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Directional terms are positional terms that help in locating structures by giving precise descriptions of a structure's location. They allow a description of anatomical position by comparing location relative to other structures or by direction within the rest of the body. They include the following terms:
Superior and inferior (cranial and caudal): used when referring to parts of the body which are toward an end of the body. Superior towards the head (cranial), and inferior meaning caudal, or towards the feet. Examples include the superior and inferior vena cava, which carry deoxygenated blood away from the head, and form the lower body to the heart respectively.
Anterior and posterior: sometimes used in place of superior and inferior, respectively. These words are used more often with animal anatomy and are rarely used with human anatomy as they have very specific meanings in human anatomy. Anterior refers to the side of the structure facing up in the standard anatomical position, while posterior refers to the bottom side. An example is that the pituitary gland has an anterior and posterior side, which each secrete different types of hormones.
Dorsal and ventral: sometimes used in place of anterior and posterior, respectively. Dorsal means the back side or upper side, while ventral means the frontal or lower side. These are mostly used with animal anatomy, but can be used in human anatomy as long as they are describing the side of an appendage. One example is the dorsal fin in fish, which is the fin found on the upper side of the fish's body.
Lateral is used to describe anything which is closer to the sides of the body (toward the arms, in the standard anatomical position) while medial is used to describe anything toward the middle of the body. In general, many structures of the human body are bilateral (two identical parts on opposite sides) that are symmetrical with the middle of the body, such as the lungs or the arms.
Deep refers to structures closer to the interior and center of the body region, such as the bones being located than the muscles in an appendage. Superficial is used to describe structures that are closer to the exterior surface of the body, such as the outer layer skin being superficial to deeper layers of the skin.
Proximal and Distal: are terms that describe one point relative to another. Proximal refers to a point closer to the reference point while distal refers to a point farther away. When describing appendages the proximal end of the appendage connects the appendage to the rest of the body, while the distal end is the end of that appendage that is away from the body.