Abdominal cavity

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Abdominal cavity is the part of the body between the bottom of the ribs and the top of the thighs, containing most of the digestive and urinary systems along with some reproductive organs.


The lower part of the ventral (abdominopelvic) cavity can be further divided into two portions: abdominal portion and pelvic portion.

Abdominal Organs Anatomy
Abdominal Organs Anatomy

The abdominal cavity

The abdominal cavity contains most of the gastrointestinal tract as well as the kidneys and adrenal glands. The abdominal cavity is bound cranially by the diaphragm, laterally by the body wall, and caudally by the pelvic cavity.

The pelvic cavity

The pelvic cavity contains most of the urogenital system as well as the rectum. The pelvic cavity is bounded cranially by the abdominal cavity, dorsally by the sacrum, and laterally by the pelvis.

Dorsal cavity

The smaller of the two main cavities is called the dorsal cavity. As its name implies, it contains organs lying more posterior in the body. The dorsal cavity, again, can be divided into two portions. The upper portion, or the cranial cavity, houses the brain, and the lower portion, or vertebral canal houses the spinal cord.

Glossary of terms

  • abdomen -  the region of the body of a vertebrate between the thorax and the pelvis; the cavity containing the major viscera; in mammals it is separated from the thorax by the diaphragm
  • Achlorhydria -  an abnormal deficiency or absence of free hydrochloric acid in the gastric juice; often associated with severe anemias and cancer of the stomach
  • Addison's disease -  a glandular disorder caused by failure of function of the cortex of the adrenal gland and marked by anemia and prostration with brownish skin
  • Adrenal cortex -  the cortex of the adrenal gland; secretes corticosterone and sex hormones
  • Adrenal gland -  either of a pair of complex endocrine glands situated near the kidney
  • anatomy -  a detailed analysis; the branch of morphology that deals with the structure of animals; alternative names for the body of a human being
  • Aorta -  the large trunk artery that carries blood from the left ventricle of the heart to branch arteries
  • Aortic arch -  the part of the aorta that arches and turns downward
  • Appendicular artery -  the branch of the ileocolic artery that supplies the vermiform appendix
  • Artificial kidney -  a machine that uses dialysis to remove impurities and waste products from the bloodstream before returning the blood to the patient's body
  • Ascending aorta -  the ascending part of the aorta as it emerges from the left ventricle
  • Ascending colon -  the part of the large intestine that ascends from the cecum to the transverse colon
  • Banti's syndrome -  a disease characterized by congestion and enlargement of the spleen; accompanied by anemia or cirrhosis
  • Bile -  a digestive juice secreted by the liver and stored in the gallbladder; aids in the digestion of fats
  • Bile acid -  any of the steroid acids generated in the liver and stored with bile
  • Bile duct -  a duct formed by the hepatic and cystic ducts; opens into the duodenum
  • Bilirubin -  an orange-yellow pigment in the bile that forms as a product of hemoglobin; excess amounts in the blood produce the yellow appearance observed in jaundice
  • Bowman -  a person who is expert in the use of a bow and arrow
  • Bowman's capsule -  thin double membrane surrounding the glomerulus of a nephron
  • Celiac artery -  an artery that originates from the abdominal aorta just below the diaphragm and branches into the left gastric artery and the common hepatic artery and the splenic artery
  • Central veins of liver -  terminal branches of the hepatic veins that lie in the hepatic lobules and receive blood from the liver sinusoids
  • Cholangiography -  roentgenographic examination of the bile ducts after a contrast medium has been injected
  • Cholestasis -  a condition in which little or no bile is secreted or the flow of bile into the digestive tract is obstructed
  • Cirrhosis -  a chronic disease interfering with the normal functioning of the liver; the major cause is chronic alcoholism
  • Clearance -  permission to proceed; the distance by which one thing clears another; the space between them; vertical space available to allow easy passage under something
  • Colitis -  inflammation of the colon
  • Colonoscopy -  visual examination of the colon (with a colonoscope) from the cecum to the rectum; requires sedation
  • Common bile duct -  a duct formed by the hepatic and cystic ducts; opens into the duodenum
  • Cushing's disease -  a glandular disorder caused by excessive ACTH resulting in greater than normal functioning of the adrenal gland; characterized by obesity
  • Cystic artery -  a branch of the hepatic artery; supplies the gall bladder and the surface of the liver
  • Cystic fibrosis -  the most common congenital disease; the child's lungs and intestines and pancreas become clogged with thick mucus; caused by defect in a single gene; there is no cure
  • Descending aorta -  the descending part of the aorta that branches into the thoracic and abdominal aortae
  • Descending colon -  the part of the large intestine that descends from the transverse colon to the sigmoid colon
  • diabetes -  any of several metabolic disorders marked by excessive urination and persistent thirst
  • Diabetes insipidus -  a rare form of diabetes resulting from a deficiency of vasopressin (the pituitary hormone that regulates the kidneys); characterized by the chronic excretion of large amounts of pale dilute urine which results in dehydration and extreme thirst
  • Diuresis -  increased secretion of urine; if not due to increased liquid intake or to the action of a diuretic drug it can be a symptom of diabetes mellitus
  • Echinococcus -  tapeworms whose larvae are parasitic in humans and domestic animals
  • Enema -  injection of a liquid through the anus to stimulate evacuation; sometimes used for diagnostic purposes
  • Epigastrium -  the region lying on or over the stomach (just below the sternum)
  • Esophagus -  the passage between the pharynx and the stomach
  • External iliac artery -  the outer branch of the common iliac artery on either side of the body; becomes the femoral artery
  • Falciform ligament -  a ligament that attaches part of the liver to the diaphragm and the abdominal wall
  • Fish oil -  a fatty oil obtained from the livers of various fish
  • Flank -  the side between ribs and hipbone; a cut from the fleshy part of an animal's side between the ribs and the leg; the side of military or naval formation; a subfigure consisting of a side of something; verb be located at the sides of something or somebody
  • Foie gras -  a pate made from goose liver (marinated in Cognac) and truffles
  • food -  any substance that can be metabolized by an organism to give energy and build tissue; anything that provides mental stimulus for thinking; any solid substance (as opposed to liquid) that is used as a source of nourishment
  • Gallbladder -  a muscular sac attached to the liver that secretes bile and stores it until needed for digestion
  • Gallstone -  a calculus formed in the gall bladder or its ducts
  • Gastrin -  polypeptide hormone secreted by the mucous lining of the stomach; induces the secretion of gastric juice
  • Gastritis -  inflammation of the lining of the stomach; nausea and loss of appetite and discomfort after eating
  • Gastrointestinal tract -  tubular passage of mucous membrane and muscle extending about 8.3 meters from mouth to anus; functions in digestion and elimination
  • Glomerulus -  a small intertwined group of capillaries in the malpighian body; it filters the blood during urine formation
  • Glycogen -  one form in which body fuel is stored; stored primarily in the liver and broken down into glucose when needed by the body
  • Greater omentum -  part of the peritoneum attached to the stomach and to the colon and covering the intestines
  • Hemolytic -  relating to or involving or causing hemolysis
  • Hindgut -  the caudal part of the alimentary canal in vertebrate embryos
  • Hydrochloric acid -  an aqueous solution of hydrogen chloride; a strongly corrosive acid
  • Hydronephrosis -  accumulation of urine in the kidney because of an obstruction in the ureter
  • Hydroxy -  being or containing a hydroxyl group
  • Hyperkalemia -  higher than normal levels of potassium in the circulating blood; associated with kidney failure or sometimes with the use of diuretic drugs
  • Hypoadrenocorticism -  a glandular disorder caused by failure of function of the cortex of the adrenal gland and marked by anemia and prostration with brownish skin
  • Hypochondrium -  the upper region of the abdomen just below the lowest ribs on either side of the epigastrium
  • Hypokalemia -  abnormally low level of potassium in the circulating blood leading to weakness and heart abnormalities; associated with adrenal tumors or starvation or taking diuretics
  • IgG -  one of the five major classes of immunoglobulins; the main antibody defense against bacteria
  • Ileocolic artery -  an artery that originates from the superior mesenteric artery and supplies the terminal part of the ileum and the cecum and the vermiform appendix and the ascending colon
  • Ileostomy -  surgical procedure that creates an opening from the ileum through the abdominal wall to function as an anus; performed in cases of cancer of the colon or ulcerative colitis
  • Iliolumbar artery -  an artery that originates in the internal iliac artery and supplies the pelvic muscles and bones
  • Inguinal canal -  oblique passage through the lower abdominal wall; in males it is the passage through which the testes descend into the scrotum and it contains the spermatic cord; in females it transmits the round ligament of the uterus
  • Internal iliac artery -  the inner branch of the common iliac artery on either side of the body; divides into several branches that supply blood to the pelvic and gluteal areas
  • Intrinsic factor -  a substance produced by the mucosa of the stomach and intestines that is essential for the absorption of vitamin B12
  • Kaliuresis -  the presence of excess potassium in the urine
  • Kidney -  either of two bean-shaped excretory organs that filter wastes (especially urea) from the blood and excrete them and water in urine
  • Kidney failure -  inability of the kidneys to excrete wastes and to help maintain the electrolyte balance
  • Large intestine -  beginning with the cecum and ending with the rectum; includes the cecum and the colon and the rectum; extracts moisture from food residues which are later excreted as feces
  • Left gastric artery -  a branch of the celiac artery that supplies the lesser curvature of the stomach and the abdominal part of the esophagus
  • Left gastric vein -  arises from a union of veins from the gastric cardia; runs in the lesser omentum; empties into the portal vein
  • Lesser omentum -  a part of the peritoneum attached to the stomach and liver and supporting the hepatic vessels
  • Lint -  cotton or linen fabric with the nap raised on one side; used to dress wounds; fine ravellings of cotton or linen fibers
  • Liver -  having a reddish-brown color;  large and complicated reddish-brown glandular organ located in the upper right portion of the abdominal cavity; secretes bile and functions in metabolism of protein and carbohydrate and fat; synthesizes substances involved in the clotting of the blood; synthesizes vitamin A; detoxifies poisonous substances and breaks down worn-out erythrocytes; liver of an animal used as meat; someone who lives in a place; a person who has a special life style
  • Liver -  having a reddish-brown color;  large and complicated reddish-brown glandular organ located in the upper right portion of the abdominal cavity; secretes bile and functions in metabolism of protein and carbohydrate and fat; synthesizes substances involved in the clotting of the blood; synthesizes vitamin A; detoxifies poisonous substances and breaks down worn-out erythrocytes; liver of an animal used as meat; someone who lives in a place; a person who has a special life style
  • Liver cancer -  malignant neoplastic disease of the liver usually occurring as a metastasis from another cancer; symptoms include loss of appetite and weakness and bloating and jaundice and upper abdominal discomfort
  • Liver fluke -  flatworm parasitic in liver and bile ducts of domestic animals and humans
  • material -  derived from or composed of matter; directly relevant to a matter especially a law case; concerned with or affecting physical as distinct from intellectual or psychological well-being; concerned with worldly rather than spiritual interests; having substance or capable of being treated as fact; not imaginary; having material or physical form or substance;  things needed for doing or making something; information (data or ideas or observations) that can be used or reworked into a finished form; a person judged suitable for admission or employment; the tangible substance that goes into the makeup of a physical object; artifact made by weaving or felting or knitting or crocheting natural or synthetic fibers
  • medicine -  the learned profession that is mastered by graduate training in a medical school and that is devoted to preventing or alleviating or curing diseases and injuries; (medicine) something that treats or prevents or alleviates the symptoms of disease; the branches of medical science that deal with nonsurgical techniques; punishment for one's actions; verb treat medicinally, treat with medicine
  • Medullary ray -  a sheet of vascular tissue separating the vascular bundles
  • Megacolon -  an abnormal enlargement of the colon; can be congenital (as in Hirschsprung's disease) or acquired (as when children refuse to defecate)
  • Mesentery -  a double layer of peritoneum that attaches to the back wall of the abdominal cavity and supports the small intestines
  • Midriff -  (anatomy) a muscular partition separating the abdominal and thoracic cavities; functions in respiration; the middle area of the human torso (usually in front)
  • Natriuresis -  the presence of abnormally large amounts of sodium in the urine
  • Navel -  scar where the umbilical cord was attached; the center point or middle of something
  • Nephrology -  the branch of medicine concerned with the kidney - its development and anatomy and physiology and disorders
  • Nephron -  any of the small tubules that are the excretory units of the vertebrate kidney
  • one -  indefinite in time or position; being a single entity made by combining separate components; used informally as an intensifier; of the same kind or quality; used of a single unit or thing; not two or more; having the indivisible character of a unit; eminent beyond or above comparison;  a single person or thing; the smallest whole number or a numeral representing this number
  • Ovarian artery -  the artery that branches from the aorta and supplies blood to the ovaries
  • Pancreas -  a large elongated exocrine gland located behind the stomach; secretes pancreatic juice and insulin
  • Pancreatitis -  inflammation of the pancreas; usually marked by abdominal pain
  • Paracentesis -  centesis of the belly to remove fluid for diagnosis
  • Pepsin -  an enzyme produced in the stomach that splits proteins into peptones
  • Perineal artery -  a branch of the internal pudendal artery that supplies superficial structures of the perineum
  • Peritoneal cavity -  the interior of the peritoneum; a potential space between layers of the peritoneum
  • Peritoneum -  a transparent membrane that lines the abdominal cavity in mammals and covers most of the viscera
  • pharmacology -  the science or study of drugs: their preparation and properties and uses and effects
  • Pheochromocytoma -  a vascular tumor of the adrenal gland; hypersecretion of epinephrine results in intermittent or sustained hypertension
  • Porphyria -  a genetic abnormality of metabolism causing abdominal pains and mental confusion
  • Porta hepatis -  opening for major blood vessels to enter and leave the liver
  • Portal hypertension -  increase in blood pressure in the veins of the portal system caused by obstruction in the liver (often associated with alcoholic cirrhosis), causing enlargement of the spleen and collateral veins
  • Pulp -  the soft inner part of a tooth; an inexpensive magazine printed on poor quality paper; any soft or soggy mass; a soft moist part of a fruit; a mixture of cellulose fibers; verb reduce to pulp; remove the pulp from, as from a fruit
  • Pyelonephritis -  inflammation of the kidney and its pelvis caused by bacterial infection
  • Pyloric stenosis -  narrowing of the pyloric sphincter that blocks the passage of food from the stomach into the duodenum
  • Pylorus -  a small circular opening between the stomach and the duodenum
  • Reabsorption -  the organic process in which the substance of some differentiated structure that has been produced by the body undergoes lysis and assimilation
  • Renal artery -  an artery originating from the abdominal aorta and supplying the kidneys and adrenal glands and ureters
  • Renal colic -  sharp pain in the lower back that radiates into the groin; associated with the passage of a renal calculus through the ureter
  • Renal corpuscle -  the capsule that contains Bowman's capsule and a glomerulus at the expanded end of a nephron
  • Renal cortex -  the cortex of the kidney containing the glomeruli and the convoluted tubules
  • Renal pelvis -  a structure shaped like a funnel in the outlet of the kidney into which urine is discharged before passing into the ureter
  • Renin -  a proteolytic enzyme secreted by the kidneys; catalyzes the formation of angiotensin and thus affects blood pressure
  • Reticuloendothelial system -  a widely distributed system consisting of all the cells able to ingest bacteria or colloidal particles etc, except for certain white blood cells
  • Right gastric artery -  a branch of the hepatic artery that supplies the pyloric portion of the stomach on the lesser curvature
  • Right gastric vein -  receives veins from the upper surfaces of the stomach and empties into the portal vein
  • sausage -  highly seasoned minced meat stuffed in casings; a small nonrigid airship used for observation or as a barrage balloon
  • Schistosomiasis -  an infestation with or a resulting infection caused by a parasite of the genus Schistosoma; common in the tropics and Far East; symptoms depend on the part of the body infected
  • Sigmoid colon -  the s-shaped curve between the descending colon and the rectum
  • Small intestine -  the longest part of the alimentary canal; where digestion is completed
  • Spleen -  a large dark-red oval organ on the left side of the body between the stomach and the diaphragm; produces cells involved in immune responses; a feeling of resentful anger
  • Spleen -  a large dark-red oval organ on the left side of the body between the stomach and the diaphragm; produces cells involved in immune responses; a feeling of resentful anger
  • Splenic artery -  an artery that originates from the celiac trunk and supplies blood to the spleen
  • Stomach -  an enlarged and muscular saclike organ of the alimentary canal; the principal organ of digestion; an appetite for food; an inclination or liking for things involving conflict or difficulty or unpleasantness; the region of the body of a vertebrate between the thorax and the pelvis; verb bear to eat; put up with something or somebody unpleasant
  • Superior mesenteric artery -  originates from the upper part of the aorta that supplies the small intestines and the cecum and the colon
  • Transaminase -  a class of transferases that catalyze transamination (that transfer an amino group from an amino acid to another compound)
  • Transverse colon -  the part of the large intestine that extends across the abdominal cavity and joins the ascending to the descending colon
  • Type -  a small metal block bearing a raised character on one end; produces a printed character when inked and pressed on paper; a subdivision of a particular kind of thing; all of the tokens of the same symbol; printed characters; (biology) the taxonomic group whose characteristics are used to define the next higher taxon; a person of a specified kind (usually with many eccentricities); verb identify as belonging to a certain type; write by means of a keyboard with types
  • Ulcerative colitis -  a serious chronic inflammatory disease of the large intestine and rectum characterized by recurrent episodes of abdominal pain and fever and chills and profuse diarrhea
  • Ureter -  either of a pair of thick-walled tubes that carry urine from the kidney to the urinary bladder
  • Urobilinogen -  a chromogen formed in the intestine from the breakdown of bilirubin; yields urobilins on oxidation; some is excreted in the feces and some is resorbed and excreted in bile or urine
  • Uterine artery -  a branch of the internal iliac artery that supplies the uterus and the upper part of the vagina
  • Vaginal artery -  a branch of the internal iliac that provides blood for the vagina and the base of the bladder and the rectum
  • Vagus nerve -  a mixed nerve that supplies the pharynx and larynx and lungs and heart and esophagus and stomach and most of the abdominal viscera
  • Vasopressin -  hormone secreted by the posterior pituitary gland (trade name Pitressin) and also by nerve endings in the hypothalamus; affects blood pressure by stimulating capillary muscles and reduces urine flow by affecting reabsorption of water by kidney tubules
  • Waist -  the narrowing of the body between the ribs and hips; the narrow part of the shoe connecting the heel and the wide part of the sole
  • Wilson's disease -  a rare inherited disorder of copper metabolism; copper accumulates in the liver and then in the red blood cells and brain

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