Retroperitoneal space

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Retroperitoneal space
Transverse section, showing the relations of the capsule of the kidney. (Peritoneum is labeled at center right.)
Human kidneys viewed from behind with spine removed
Latin spatium retroperitoneale
TA A10.1.01.002
FMA 15080
Anatomical terminology

The retroperitoneal space (retroperitoneum) is the anatomical space (sometimes a potential space) in the abdominal cavity behind (retro) the peritoneum. It has no specific delineating anatomical structures. Organs are retroperitoneal if they have peritoneum on their anterior side only. Structures that are not suspended by mesentery in the abdominal cavity and that lie between the parietal peritoneum and abdominal wall are classified as retroperitoneal.[1]

The retroperitoneum can be further subdivided into the following:[2]

  • Perirenal space
  • Anterior pararenal space
  • Posterior pararenal space

Retroperitoneal structures[edit]

Structures that lie behind the peritoneum are termed "retroperitoneal". Organs that were once suspended within the abdominal cavity by mesentery but migrated posterior to the peritoneum during the course of embryogenesis to become retroperitoneal are considered to be secondarily retroperitoneal organs.

  • Primarily retroperitoneal, meaning the structures were retroperitoneal during the entirety of development:
  • Secondarily retroperitoneal, meaning the structures initially were suspended in mesentery and later migrated behind the peritoneum during development:
    • the head, neck, and body of the pancreas (but not the tail, which is located in the splenorenal ligament)[3]
    • the duodenum, except for the proximal first segment, which is intraperitoneal[4]
    • ascending and descending portions of the colon (but not the transverse colon, sigmoid or the cecum)

A useful mnemonic to aid recollection of the abdominal retroperitoneal viscera is SAD PUCKER:

  • S = Suprarenal glands (aka the adrenal glands)
  • A = Aorta/IVC
  • D = Duodenum (second and third segments [some also include the fourth segment] )
  • P = Pancreas (only head, neck, and body are retroperitoneal. The tail is intraperitoneal)
  • U = Ureters
  • C = Colon (only the ascending and descending colons, as transverse and sigmoid retain mesocolon)
  • K = Kidneys
  • E = Esophagus (not including the part inside the abdominal cavity)
  • R = Rectum

Another mnemonic going along with SAD PUCKER is 112 212111, this correlating to which ones are Primarily (1) or Secondarily (2) Retroperitoneal. Alternatively, PADD (Pancreas, Ascending colon, Descending colon, Duodenum) can be used to remember which structures are secondarily retroperitoneal.

Perirenal Space[edit]

Bounded by the anterior and posterior leafs of the renal fascia. It contains the following structures:

Anterior pararenal space[edit]

Bounded by the posterior layer of peritoneum and the anterior leaf of the renal fascia. It contains the following structures:

Posterior pararenal space[edit]

Bounded by the posterior leaf of the renal fascia and the muscles of the posterior abdominal wall. It contains only fat.

Role in disease[edit]

See Also[edit]


  1. ^ Gray's Anatomy for Students, 2nd Ed. 2010. Pg. 251
  2. ^ Ryan, Stephanie; McNicholas, Michelle; Eustace, Stephen (2004). Anatomy for Diagnostic Imaging. Sydney: Saunders. p. 191. ISBN 978-0-7020-2620-1. 
  3. ^ Kyung Won, PhD. Chung (2005). Gross Anatomy (Board Review). Hagerstown, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 256. ISBN 0-7817-5309-0. 
  4. ^ K. L. Moore, A. F. Dalley, A. M. R. Agur (2005). Clinically Oriented Anatomy. Hagerstown, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 1209. ISBN 0-7817-3639-0.