Anatomy Principles

Body Planes

Reading Time:


Anatomical planes transect the body and are used to describe both movements and positions of anatomical structures.

The 3 majors planes are the coronal, sagittal, and axial (transverse) planes. They are most frequently encountered when examining cross sectional imaging, but there also exist important named planes which pass through critical anatomical structures. Some examples of these include the trans-pyloric plane, sub-costal, and supra-cristal planes. More details on these will be provided in relevant sub-sections.

Key Images

Key Info

Coronal planes are perpendicular the floor and divides the body into anterior and posterior sections.

Sagittal planes are perpendicular to the floor and divides the body into left and right. A sagittal plane dividing the body exactly in two is known as the median sagittal plan.

Axial, or transverse, planes separate the body into superior and inferior parts. Some of these planes are named for the structures which are transected by them, for example the transpyloric plane.

Clinical Anatomy

Anatomical planes are widely used in clinical medicine. Whilst they are most appreciated when interpreting cross-sectional imaging (e.g. CT or MRI), they are often used in describing surgical approaches or technical procedures.

For example, the mid-axillary line (in the sagittal plane) is one of the landmarks for the safe region to insert a chest drain. There are numerous specific planes which are encountered in clinical medicine, and these will be discussed in the relevant sub-section.


In viva-type examinations, candidates may be asked which structures are present at specific axial plans, e.g. the trans-pyloric plane, sub-costal plane, or supra-cristal plane.



RL Drake, W Vogl, AWM Mitchell. Gray's Anatomy for Student (2005). 39th Ed. Ediburgh: Elsevier. 
By Edoarado - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,