Regions of the Peritoneum: Medical Vocabulary

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  • 0:01 The Peritoneum
  • 0:33 Parietal & Visceral Peritoneum
  • 1:56 The Retroperitoneum
  • 3:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

Inside of your abdomen are layers of membranes and different spaces with really weird names. We'll define many of them: peritoneum (including the visceral and parietal parts), retroperitoneum, and mesentery.

The Peritoneum

Crack open any nut and you'll find a very thin layer of this brown membrane lining the inside of the hard case that formed a cavity where the nut sat in. Many regions of your body also have thin membranes lining a cavity where organs sit. The transparent serous membrane lining the walls of the abdominal and pelvic cavities and covering many of the organs contained therein is known as the peritoneum. It serves to hold and protect these organs. Let's cover some terms related to it.

Parietal and Visceral Peritoneum

The peritoneum is divided into the parietal and visceral peritoneum. Let's go back to our nut example. Imagine cracking open a walnut. The inside of the hard shell has a brown covering you can scrape off. This is like the parietal peritoneum, the portion of the peritoneum lining the interior of the abdominal wall. The actual, edible nut sitting inside the shell represents the internal organs, also known as viscera, sitting within the abdominal cavity. This edible nut also has a thin brown membrane covering the lighter meat. This is like the visceral peritoneum, the portions of the peritoneum surrounding the abdominal organs.

Attaching part of the intestines to the interior abdominal wall is the mesentery, a double layer of peritoneum that is attached to the abdominal wall, one that encloses some parts of the abdominal viscera in its folds. Inflammation of the peritoneum is called peritonitis, where 'periton-' obviously refers to the peritoneum, and '-itis' refers to inflammation. Peritonitis can be caused by a lot of different things. This includes trauma, any perforation in the stomach or intestines, such as a ruptured appendix or stomach ulcer, and pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas.

The Retroperitoneum

That being said, the pancreas itself isn't mainly located in the peritoneal cavity, the space between the parietal and visceral layers of the peritoneum. It's actually, largely located in the retroperitoneum, also known as the retroperitoneal space, the space between the peritoneum and posterior abdominal wall. 'Retro-' means behind, 'peritone/o-' means peritoneum, and '-al' refers to pertaining to. This space is important because this is where the kidneys are located in the body. Actually, more than just the kidneys are retroperitoneal. In fact, there's a nice mnemonic to help remember which organs are located in this space, it's SAD PUCKER:

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