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Planes of the Human Body: Definition, Anatomy & Diagram

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  1. 0:32 Median and Sagittal Plane
  2. 1:40 Coronal Plane
  3. 2:24 Transverse Plane
  4. 3:04 Why We Use Planes
  5. 4:18 Lesson Summary
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Taught by

Artem Cheprasov

Artem is a doctor of veterinary medicine and has taught science and medicine at the college level.

Learn about the different ways in which your body can be divided or cut up for theoretical and practical purposes as we explore the sagittal plane, transverse plane and coronal plane.

Different Planes

Planes, trains and automobiles are often cut apart for scraps. They can be cut in many different directions, depending on exactly what it is you're trying to get from them. The same type of concept goes for your body. We can cut it up, metaphorically and realistically, in many different directions. Let's see how we can slice and dice a person and for what important purposes we may sometimes have to do this.

The Median and Sagittal Plane

The median plane divides the body vertically
Median Plane Diagram

One cut, direction or plane - however you want to term it - is known as the median plane. This is a vertical plane that divides the body into equal right and left halves. Basically, we cut the person in a straight, vertical line from the head through the belly button and down to the toes. The median plane, therefore, creates equal right and left halves of our body.

Any vertical plane that is parallel to the median plane is known as the sagittal plane. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that sometimes the median plane is referenced as the 'midsagittal plane,' and the sagittal planes are sometimes called 'paramedian' planes, as the prefix 'para' refers to something that's side by side or, in our case, parallel to something else.

You can remember what the median plane is by recalling the fact that a highway median - the barrier or strip of land running down the middle of the highway - divides the highway into right and left halves just like the median plane of our body does.

The Coronal Plane

Another totally different type of cut or plane we can achieve with the body is known as the coronal plane. This is a plane that separates the body into anterior and posterior parts. In essence, this plane intersects the median plane at a 90-degree angle and, therefore, splits the body into front and back halves. This type of division is why the coronal plane is sometimes referred to as the 'frontal plane.'

The coronal or frontal plane
Coronal Plane Diagram

Hence, it's easy to remember that the frontal plane divides the body into front and, therefore, back parts. Also, the word frontal shares the same two last letters as the word coronal, hence you'll always know they're one and the same.

The Transverse Plane

Finally, we can also cut the body using the transverse plane. This is a plane that divides the body into superior and inferior portions. This plane runs perpendicular to the coronal and median planes and in an upright human is parallel, or horizontal, to the ground. This is why it's also called the 'horizontal plane.'

The transverse plane can be remembered if you remember it is also the horizontal plane. The word 'horizontal' is the key term here. The horizontal plane runs from side to side (or horizontally); hence, it divides your body into top and bottom halves instead.

The transverse plane separates the body horizontally
Transverse Plane Diagram

Why We Slice and Dice

Regardless of how you best recall which plane divides the body into which parts, the practical reasons for this terminology sometimes have to do with something called histopathology. This is when we cut tissue up into microscopically thin slices in order to examine the tissue for diagnostic or educational purposes. For example, we may slice and dice a potential tumor to see how invasive it is in the surrounding tissue. Depending on the exact nature of the tissue we are dealing with, we may cut it in different planes to give us a better view of what's going on.

Likewise, we sometimes divide a human being into theoretical slices. Meaning, we don't literally cut up a person; we only theoretically divide the human up. For instance, a CT machine is something that takes many radiographs at once in order to help us form an image that we can virtually slice through in any plane we want in order to help us see what's going on inside of the body. All of these planes, regardless of whether a histopathologist or radiologist uses them, are important to know in order to understand critical reference points in science and medicine.

Lesson Summary

Now that you know that learning all of those planes is truly important, let's review them so you don't forget them too soon. The median plane is a vertical plane that divides the body into equal right and left halves, and any vertical plane that is parallel to the median plane is known as the sagittal plane.

The coronal plane is a plane that separates the body into anterior and posterior parts and is sometimes known as the 'frontal plane.' Finally, the transverse plane is a plane that divides the body into superior and inferior portions and is sometimes called the 'horizontal plane' as well.

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