Useful Medical Terms

Although this is not an exhaustive list, below are some terms and definitions to help you understand documents and communicate accurately.

TERMS OF POSITION AND DIRECTION

 

Superior (cranial, cephalic)
towards the upper end of body; above another structure. Example: the lungs lie superior to the kidneys.
Inferior (caudal)
towards the lower end of body; below another structure. Example: the kidneys lie inferior to the lungs.
Anterior (ventral)
towards the fron; in front of. Example: the trachea lies anterior to the esophagus.
Postanterior (dorsal)
towards the rear; behind. Example: the esophagus lies posterior to the trachea.

Medial

towards the mid-line of the body. Example: the abdominal aorta lies medial to the kidneys.

Lateral

towards the right or left sides of the body. Example: the lungs lie lateral to the heart.

External (superficial)

towards the surface of the body. Example: the skin is located external to the muscles.

Internal (deep)

towards the interior of the body. Example: muscles are deep to the skin.

Proximal

nearest to the trunk or point of origin. Example: the shoulder is proximal to the arm.

Distal

farthest from the trunk. Example: the forearm is distal to the arm.

Contralateral

relating to the opposite side; as when pain or paralysis occurs on the side opposite to that of the lesion.

Palmar (volar)

referring to the palm of the hand.

Plantar

referring to the sole of the foot.

Efferent

conducting outward as lymphatic fluid or a nerve impulse.

Afferent

Conducting inwards as fluid or a nerve impulse.

 

 

 

TERMS OF LOCATION

 

 

TERMS DESCRIBING MOVEMENT