Retroperitoneal Organs: Definition & Mnemonic

Instructor: Artem Cheprasov

Artem has a doctor of veterinary medicine degree.

In this lesson, you'll learn the specific definition of the retroperitoneum. Then, you'll learn a mnemonic that will help you remember the organs (or parts thereof) that are found in this space.


When someone says that something is 'retro,' what do they mean? They're referring to something that harkens 'back' to some other time. Like the word harkens, which is also pretty retro. 'Retro' is also used in the word retroperitoneum, which is the space located between the peritoneum and the posterior abdominal wall. Like arcane retro language no one can understand, this definition is pretty cloudy.

In this lesson we'll clarify this word and then figure out what organs are located in it.

Where Is the Retroperitoneum?

Before you can fully understand where the retroperitoneum (aka retroperitoneal space) is, it's helpful to understand what it is. The peritoneum is a relatively thin and transparent membrane that covers a large portion of your abdominopelvic (abdominal + pelvic) cavity as well as many of the structures housed within this cavity. If you were to line the inside of a ball with cling wrap, this cling wrap would be sort of like the peritoneum, and the space within the ball would be the abdominopelvic cavity.

Keep in mind the peritoneum does not line every part of your abdominopelvic cavity nor does it envelop every organ here! You can think of the peritoneum as a membrane that envelops mainly the front, sides, and the center of the abdominopelvic cavity and many of its organs.

Another thing you need to be aware of is something called the transversalis fascia, which is a sheet of fibrous tissue that lines the internal surface of the transverse abdominal muscle. This fascia helps comprise the inner lining of the back of your abdomen, the part closest to your back muscles.

The retroperitoneum is thus located to the 'back' of the peritoneum. Specifically, it's commonly seen as the space that's located posterior to (to the back of) the peritoneum and anterior to (to the front of) the transversalis fascia.

The peritoneum is labeled in this image. The kidneys (also labeled) sit in the retroperitoneal space (unlabeled).


In this retroperitoneal space, sit portions of or entire organs and tissue structures. There are quite a number of them. Thus it's easiest to remember which ones are found here using a famous mnemonic for it, that of SAD PUCKER.

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