Hands massaging flat abdomen

Abdominal Anatomy Overview and Basic Facts

October 23, 2019

When the word abdomen is mentioned what comes to the mind of many is the stomach. Well, it’s partly true. But there is more to the abdomen than the stomach. And very few people have an understanding of the abdominal anatomy. The abdomen constitutes the part of the body between the thorax and the pelvis. The upper portion of the abdomen is bound by the diaphragm. And the abdomen ends at the level where the pelvic bone begins. The region that the abdomen occupies is known as the abdominal cavity.

The abdomen contains many vital organs in the body. Other organs apart from the heart and the lungs located in the thorax are located in the abdomen. It’s very important to understand the abdominal anatomy. And this is because with a better understanding you would be able to care a lot better for your abdomen. At the same time, you would have a better understanding of the functions of the organs. Organs present in the abdomen are stomach, pancreas, small intestine, large intestine, liver, gallbladder, spleen, and kidneys.

Abdominal Anatomy: An Overview

As mentioned earlier there are many organs situated in the abdomen. And these organs have been classified into different categories.

  • Organs of the digestive tract: Stomach, small intestine, appendix, cecum and also large intestine.
  • Accessory Organs: Liver, pancreas, and gallbladder.
  • Urinary System: Kidneys and ureter. The thing though is that these organs are located retroperitoneally. Which means that they are located at the posterior part of the body.
  • Other Organs: The spleen.

There are seven layers of the abdominal wall.

  • Skin: Skin is the most superficial layer of the abdominal wall. It’s soft outer tissue. And it functions in protection, regulation and also sensation.
  • Subcutaneous tissue: This is the layer right beneath the skin of the abdomen. It is also known as hypodermis. And its main purpose is for the storage of fat.
  • Fascia: Right underneath subcutaneous tissue is fascia. There are two types of fascia.
  • Camper’s fascia and Scarpa’s fascia: Camper’s fascia is the thick superficial layer. While
  • Scarpa’s fascia is the deep fibrous layer.
  • Muscles: After the fascia is the muscles. The abdomen is supported by muscles. And there are five major muscles that support the abdomen.
    • Rectus abdominis supports the abdomen in the front.
    • Latissimus dorsi support the abdomen in the back.
    • External obliques help support the abdomen at the sides.
    • Transversus abdominis muscle is deep to internal oblique muscle. And it supports it anterolaterally.
    • Pyramidalis muscle is a small triangular muscle. It is anterior to the rectus abdominis muscle.
  • Transversalis fascia: This is the membrane that lies between the transversus abdominis muscle and the parietal peritoneum.
  • Extraperitoneal fat: In the interior portion of the abdomen there’s an amount of connective tissue called extraperitoneal fat.
  • Peritoneum: This is the deepest layer of the abdomen. It is a serous membrane that lines the innermost portion of the abdominal cavity.

Functions of Organs of the Abdomen

Each organ contained in the abdomen has specific functions in the body. Let’s dive into their functions.


Kidneys are major organs of the body that help filter contaminants. Most people have two kidneys. With the help of kidney waste products are filtered out of our blood. And they are excreted as urine. Also, they help regulate the amount of ions and electrolytes in the body. And they also produce hormones that are very important in the body.


The liver is known to be a very important organ in the body. It performs so many functions. Some of which are removing wastes from nutrients. And also processing blood.


This is a gland that produces hormones that help in regulating nutrients in our body. For instance, they help regulate sugar levels in the body. They also help digest carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.


The main function of the gallbladder is to store bile. And bile helps in the breaking down of fat.

Digestive organs

Organs of the digestive tract help digest the food we take in. That way our body would be able to absorb the nutrients easily.

Not only are the organs in the abdomen very important, but the muscles are also very useful. Abdominal muscles play a vital role in the breathing process. They are known as accessory muscles of respiration. All thanks to these muscles we can complete the process of respiration.

Also, abdominal muscles are also well involved in other activities we do. Such activities are cough, defecation, singing, urination, vomiting and even childbirth.

Disease Conditions Associated with the Abdomen

The fact that there are many organs in the abdominal cavity, it’s prone to a lot of diseases. Here’s a list of some common conditions.

  • Peritonitis: This is known as the inflammation of the covering of abdominal structures. It causes severe pain and also rigidity. And this is usually as a result of an infected organ located in the abdomen.
  • Appendicitis: This is an inflammation of the appendix. Appendicitis is one of the most common conditions associated with organs in the abdomen. Most times surgery would have to be carried out to remove the inflamed appendix.
  • Constipation: This is also one common one. When you don’t have at least three bowel movements per week it’s constipation. Changing your diet and exercise helps out a lot. But if there’s no improvement then you might need to see your doctor.
  • Hepatitis: Hepatitis is the inflammation of the liver. And it is usually as a result of a viral infection. Alcohol, drugs and even problems with the immune system can also cause hepatitis.
  • Pancreatitis: Pancreatitis is the inflammation of the pancreas. The most common causes of this condition are gallstones and also alcohol. Trauma and also drugs can also cause pancreatitis. In some cases as well the cause of this condition is unknown. This occurs in about 10-15% of people that present with this condition.

Now you might be asking what’s the point of knowing all these? Well, it’s very important to understand the anatomy of your abdomen for your own sake. There are times that you might be feeling pain at certain parts of your abdomen. Once you have an idea of the organ is there then you have an idea of the condition you might have. So once again have a closer look and understand fully the abdominal anatomy.