Ventral Body Cavity: Definition, Subdivisions & Organs

Instructor: Laurie Smith
Studying the body can be overwhelming when it's viewed as a whole. This lesson zooms in a bit to focus on the ventral cavity, its divisions, subdivisions, and the organs it contains.

Ventral Body Cavity

Nursing students Sabrina and Margie are sitting in study hall after their anatomy and physiology class. Sabrina already feels overwhelmed with trying to study the human body. It is so detailed, with so many different parts! Margie says she understands it by studying the ways the body has been divided by scientists.

Margie helps Sabrina by starting with the ventral cavity, which is the front part of the body and includes the thoracic and abdominopelvic cavities. Imagine a line just in front of the brain and spinal cord. Everything in front of that line is the ventral cavity.

Divisions and Organs

Sabrina reminds Margie that the ventral cavity is broken down into two divisions:

  1. The thoracic cavity, which is the chest cavity that is separated from the lower parts by the diaphragm. The mediastinum houses the esophagus, trachea, and the heart and its associated blood vessels. The pleural cavity houses the lungs ('pleural' is the medical term for lungs).

  2. The abdominopelvic cavity, which is really two cavities (abdominal and pelvic), but there's nothing to separate the two. The abdominal cavity houses the kidneys, gallbladder, liver, small intestines, part of the large intestines, stomach, spleen, and pancreas. The pelvic cavity houses the colon, rectum, reproductive organs, and urinary bladder.

Let's now take a look at the different divisions within the abdominal pelvic cavity, beginning with the abdominopelvic quadrants.

Abdominopelvic Quadrants

Margie tells Sabrina to imagine drawing a vertical line straight up and down the body and then a horizontal line straight through the middle of the cavity. This results in four equal sized sections called quadrants.

The quadrants on the top are:

  • Left upper quadrant (LUQ): contains the small part of the liver, left kidney, stomach, spleen, pancreas, and left half of the transverse colon
  • Right upper quadrant (RUQ): contains a large portion of the liver, right kidney, bottom end of the stomach, gallbladder, and right half of the transverse colon

The lower quadrants are the:

  • Left lower quadrant (LLQ): houses the left side of the small intestines, left ureter, and left ovary (in females)
  • Right lower quadrant (RLQ): houses the ascending colon, right side of the small intestines, right ureter, and right ovary (in females)

Margie says to keep in mind that they have to study based on the point-of-view of the body, not themselves looking at the body. So, 'left' means the left side of the body, not your left.

Abdominopelvic Regions

In the abdominopelvic quadrants are a bunch of regions that break this cavity down even more. Sabrina says she remembers a little about the regions because it looked like a tic-tac-toe board drawn over the cavity. There are nine regions to study.

Let go from top down, left to right. First, the top:

  • The top left is the left hypochondriac region, where you'll find the left half of the stomach and spleen
  • The top center is the epigastric region, which is the location for the large portion of the liver, gallbladder, right half of the stomach, pancreas, and kidneys
  • The top right region is the right hypochondriac region, where you'll find the right portion of the liver

Now to the middle:

  • The middle left section is the left lumbar region, where the descending colon and a small portion of the small intestines are found
  • The center region is the umbilical region, which contains the transverse colon, small intestines, and ureters
  • The middle right portion is the right lumbar region, where the ascending colon is located

And finally, the bottom:

  • The left lower square is the left iliac region, also called the left inguinal region; a very small portion of the small intestines and lowest part of the descending colon are found in this region
  • The middle lower section is the hypogastric region, where the lower portion of the small intestines, bladder, rectum, and uterus and ovaries (in females) are located.
  • The bottom right square is the right iliac region, also called the right inguinal region; in this region is a very small portion of the beginning of the colon

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