Superficial anatomy

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Surface projections of the major organs of the trunk, using the vertebral column and rib cage as main reference points of superficial anatomy.

Superficial anatomy (also called surface anatomy) is the study of the external features of the body.[1] It deals with anatomical features that can be studied by sight, without dissecting an organism.[citation needed] It is a branch of gross anatomy, along with endoscopic and radiological anatomy.[2] Superficial anatomy is a descriptive science.[citation needed] In particular, in the case of human superficial anatomy, these are the form and proportions of the human body and the surface landmarks which correspond to deeper structures hidden from view, both in static pose and in motion. It[which?] is also called "visual anatomy".

In addition, the science of superficial anatomy includes the theories and systems of body proportions and related artistic canons.[citation needed] Studying of superficial anatomy is the basis for depiction of human body in classic art.

Some pseudo-sciences such as physiognomy, phrenology and palmistry rely on superficial anatomy.

Human surface anatomy[edit]

Surface anatomy of the thorax[edit]

Knowledge of the surface anatomy of the thorax (chest) is particularly important because it is one of the areas most frequently subjected to physical examination, like auscultation and percussion.[3] Human female breasts are located on the anterior chest wall, most frequently between the second and sixth rib.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Seeley (2003) chap.1 p.2
  2. ^ Standring (2008) Introduction, Anatomical nomenclature, p.2
  3. ^ a b Drake (2009) Ch.3 Thorax - Thorax surface anatomy, pp. 224-6 and Fig. 3.96 A


  • Drake, Richard; Vogl, A. Wayne; Mitchell, Adam W. M. (2009). Gray's Anatomy for Students (2nd ed.). Elsevier Health Sciences. pp. 157–164, 311–320, 538–547, 686–694, 882–892, 1097–1110, 1514–1524. ISBN 9781437720556. Retrieved 28 February 2014. 
  • Seeley, Rod R.; Stephens, Trent D.; Tate, Philip (2002). Anatomy & physiology (6th ed.). McGraw & Hill. [ISBN missing]
  • Standring, Susan (2008) Gray's Anatomy: The Anatomical Basis of Clinical Practice, 39th Edition. Human surface anatomy photos at pp. 947, 1406-1410 Figs. 56.3, 110.12, 110.13, 110.15, 110.22[ISBN missing]

Further reading[edit]