What are the anatomical regions and quadrants of the abdomen?

Broaden your clinical understanding of the nine anatomical regions and four quadrants of the abdomen.
Last update5th Feb 2021

The abdomen can be divided into nine anatomical regions and four quadrants. These classifications are useful to clinicians during an abdominal exam because they can help with differential diagnoses and communication between healthcare providers.

The nine anatomical regions of the abdomen

From superior to inferior, the abdomen is divided into nine regions:

  1. Epigastric
  2. Umbilical
  3. Hypogastric (e.g., suprapubic)
  4. Left hypochondriac
  5. Right hypochondriac
  6. Left lumbar
  7. Right lumbar
  8. Left iliac (e.g., inguinal)
  9. Right iliac (e.g., inguinal)
Figure 1. The nine anatomical regions of the abdomen include the midline regions (epigastric, umbilical, and hypogastric) and bilateral regions (left and right hypochondriac, lumbar, and iliac).

Midline anatomical regions: epigastric, umbilical, and hypogastric

There are three anatomical regions in the midline of the abdomen. These include the epigastric, umbilical, and hypogastric (e.g., suprapubic) regions.

Bilateral anatomical regions: hypochondriac, lumbar, and iliac

Each bilateral anatomical region has an associated right and left side. Adjacent to the epigastric region are the right and left hypochondriac regions; adjacent to the umbilical region are the right and left lumbar regions. On either side of the hypogastric region are the right and left iliac regions, which can also be referred to as the right and left inguinal regions.

The four quadrants of the abdomen

The abdomen can also be divided into four quadrants, known as the right upper, the left upper, the right lower, and the left lower quadrants. It is common to see these quadrants abbreviated as RUQ, LUQ, RLQ, and LLQ, respectively.

Figure 2. The four quadrants of the abdomen include the right upper quadrant, right lower quadrant, left upper quadrant, and left lower quadrant.

The two planes of the abdomen

The four quadrants of the abdominal wall are used for general clinical descriptions. The quadrants are defined by the transumbilical and medial planes. The transumbilical (or horizontal) plane passes through the umbilicus at the L4 level, and the vertical medial plane divides the body into the right and left halves.

Figure 3. The abdomen is divided into four quadrants by the medial and transumbilical planes.

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Organs in the nine regions of the abdomen

It is important to know the anatomical regions (and quadrants) of the abdomen to correlate the pain to the organs contained in each area. For example, pain within the epigastric region should guide you to think about the stomach, liver, pancreas, duodenum, and adrenal glands. Pain in the suprapubic (e.g., hypogastric) region should guide you to think about the bladder, sigmoid colon, rectum, and uterus.

Figure 4. The epigastric region of the abdomen contains the stomach, liver, pancreas, duodenum, and adrenal glands. The suprapubic region of the abdomen contains the bladder, sigmoid colon, rectum, and uterus.

Organization of the abdomen in this manner allows for universal communication among healthcare providers and aids in differential diagnoses.

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Recommended reading

  • de Dombal, FT. 1988. The OMGE acute abdominal pain survey. Progress report, 1986. Scand J Gastroenterol Suppl144: 35–42. PMID: 3043646
  • Jin, XW, Slomka, J, and Blixen, CE. 2002. Cultural and clinical issues in the care of Asian patients. Cleve Clin J Med69: 50, 53–54, 56–58. PMID: 11811720
  • Tseng, W-S and Streltzer, J. 2008. “Culture and clinical assessment”. In: Cultural Competence in Health Care. Boston: Springer. 
  • Wong, C. 2020. Liver fire in traditional Chinese medicine. verywellhealthhttps://www.verywellhealth.com

About the author

Olutayo A. Sogunro, DO, FACS, FACOS
Breast Surgical Oncologist at Johns Hopkins Howard County General Hospital and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Johns Hopkins University Hospital, Maryland, USA
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