The Human Abdomen
The Anatomy Of The Abdomen

The human abdomen is that part in the front of our body between the chest and the waist line. It is a cavity that contains many of the organs in the human body, including the liver, gallbladder, stomach, spleen, pancreas, kidneys, adrenal glands and bowels. Diseases affecting any of these organs could result in abdominal pain. Let's take a close look at this very important part of our anatomy and thus improve our understanding of causes of abdominal pain.

Do you know that the largest gland in the entire human body, weighing an average of 1.5Kg is in the abdomen? Yes. That is the liver.

Organs of the human abdomen

Do you also know that the abdomen houses the largest tube transport system in the body stretching some 6 meters? That tube system is our bowels and that is how long your bowel is. Six meters on the average.

The human abdomen, also called the belly, tummy or inaccurately also referred to as the stomach, extends from just under the rib cage on the sides, and below the breast plate in middle, down to the waste line or bikini line.

The abdomen is  by far the largest single area of the body. It consists of the abdominal cavity that extends from under the lower ribs, under the diaphragm, through into the pelvis, down to the front of the buttocks.  A stabbing wound to the buttock can damage organs or bowels inside the abdomen! The abdomen also include the skin and muscles that covers the abdominal cavity and it's organs and blood vessels.

Though commonly associated with our digestive system, the abdomen contains organs that does more than that. It is where our kidneys, adrenal glands, and spleen are found. None of the three organs just mentioned play any direct role in digestion of food.

There is more to the human abdomen than many of us would ever think of. Let's take a look at the different regions or parts of the abdomen, their content and common diseases that could affect each region of the abdomen.

Regions Of The Human Abdomen

Regions of the abdomen

The abdomen can be divided into nine areas or regions for the purpose of description.  The  nine sections (also referred to as the axial section through the abdomen) are:

Right Upper Abdomen

  • It is also called the Right Hypochondrial Region
  • This is the region of the abdomen about a hand's breath just below the right breast.
  • It contains part of the liver, the gallbladder and part of the right kidney deep inside towards the back
  • It is where the pain of gall stones, hepatitis, costochondritis, myofascial trigger point pain and upper thoraxic nerve root pain and some other conditions are felt. 

Epigastric Region

  • Also called the Epigastrium
  • It is the area just below the middle of the chest
  • It contains the lower part of the oesophagus (or gullet), part of the stomach, liver, pancreas and part of the small intestine called the duodenum.
  • It is where the pain of acid reflux, alcohol gastritis, stomach ulcer, pancreatitis, and indigestion commonly occur.

Left Upper Abdomen

  • Also called the Left Hypochondrial Region
  • It is about a hand's breath just below the left rib cage
  • This is where the spleen, left upper part of the colon or large intestines, and part of the left kidney can be found
  • Spleen pain from malaria, infection, tumour, or costochondritis, constipation, and large bowel problems are common causes of pain in this region. 

Right Flank Or Lumbar Region

  • Also called right lumbar region of the human abdomen
  • It is area to the right of the umbilicus of belly button
  • There you can find organs like the lower pole of the right kidney deep inside the abdomen, part of the right ureter, and the ascending colon or large intestine
  • Because there are not a lot of organ in this region, pain in this part of the abdomen is not as common in comparison to some other parts of the abdomen
  • Right kidney stone, kidney infection, constipation, trapped wind, pulled muscle are common causes of abdominal pain in this region. 

Umbilical Region

  • This is the area of the abdomen just around the umbilicus or belly button
  • The only organs in this region are the large and small intestines, though the lower part of the stomach could stretch down to this area in some individuals, and the uterus or womb gets to and beyond this point during pregnancy
  • Trapped wind, bowel obstruction, gastroenteritis or food poisoning are common causes of pain in this region of the human abdomen.

Left Flank Or Left Lumbar Region

  • Like the right flank, there are very few organs here
  • The large intestine, lower pole of the left kidney, left ureter and extension of the spleen if it becomes enlarged, could be found in this part of the abdomen
  • Trapped wind, irritable bowel syndrome, diverticulitis, constipation, left kidney stone or kidney infection, and pulled muscles are not uncommon causes of pain here.

Right Iliac Fossa

  • This is one of the regions of the abdomen where pain is most experienced
  • It is where the appendix, cecum, ileocolic junction, part of the ascending colon, and loops of small intestines can be found. Also, in the female, it houses the right ovary, right fallopian tube and the right broad ligament
  • Appendicitis, cecitis, carcinoid tumor, right side bowel cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, right ovarian cyst, right salpingitis, constipation and trapped wind are common causes of pain here.

Suprapubic Or Hypogastric Region

  • This is where you have your urine bladder, part of the bowels, prostate in the man, and womb in woman
  • Common causes of pain here include cystitis, constipation, fibroid, endometriosis, adenomyosis, miscarriage, and symphysio-pubic-dysfunction (SPD) pain in the pregnant woman.

Left Iliac Fossa

  • This is another part of the abdomen commonly plagued with pain
  • It is where the sigmoid colon, left ovary, left fallopian tube, and left broad ligament can be found
  • Constipation, diverticulitis, irritable bowel syndrome, ectopic pregnancy, bowel cancer, left sided spigelian, femoral and inguinal hernia, trapped wind and many other common causes of abdominal pain can be found.

Organs Of The Abdomen

Although we have mentioned most of the organs of the human abdomen as we discussed each of the regions above, lets list all the organs of the abdomen here. We shall also include the names of the important blood vessels and nerves. There are:

  • The lower part of the oesophagus or gullet
  • The porta venous system
  • Stomach
  • Liver
  • Gallbladder
  • Right supradrenal gland
  • Right kidney
  • Right ureter
  • Ascending colon
  • Ileo-colic junction
  • The Appendix
  • Right Ovary
  • Right Fallopian tube
  • The womb or uterus
  • The bladder or urinary bladder
  • The prostate
  • Urethra
  • The Abdominal Aorta
  • The Celiac artery
  • Spleen
  • Pancreas
  • Left kidney
  • Left ureter
  • Superior mesenteric artery
  • Inferior mesenteric artery
  • Autonomic nerves
  • Small intestines (duodenum, jejuneum and ileum)
  • Left Ovary
  • Left Fallopian Tube
  • Posterior Abdominal Wall And Lumbar Plexus
  • The abdominal Lymph glands and their lymphatic channels

The Human Abdomen: Have Your Say!

Is there something about the abdomen that intrigues you? Or perhaps, is there a query on your mind about the abdomen? Comments or query, have your say here. Share your thoughts on the human abdomen here now. Just type your story below!

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