What Is an Anterior Incision?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
An anterior incision is made in the front of the body.
An anterior incision is made in the front of the body.

An anterior incision is made in the front of the body to access a structure for a surgical procedure. The opposite is a posterior incision, made from behind. There are a number of procedures that are routinely performed with anterior access, and in other cases the choice may be up to the surgeon, who can consider the technique and the specific case when deciding how to proceed.

In human anatomy, terms like anterior and posterior are used to definitively describe position. Regardless of how the patient is placed, the anterior is still the front of the body; for example, if the patient is lying face down, the posterior of the body would be exposed. Using clear terminology helps medical providers communicate, which can be particularly important in discussions of surgical technique where doctors want to make sure they understand what is being discussed.

Surgeons writing up case notes are careful to define and describe the type of incision used for the patient’s medical record. This information can be important to have in the event of complications or a surgery in the future; another surgeon might want to know the details of the previous surgery to take this information into account when planning a procedure, for instance. In addition to using positional terms like anterior, the surgeon might also discuss the more precise location, like an anterior median incision on the abdomen, which runs down the middle of the body.

One common example of an anterior incision is an abdominal incision, used to access a variety of internal organs as well as the upper pelvic region. Some spinal surgeries are also performed through an anterior incision, depending on the type of surgery. Orthopedic surgeries can also favor this approach in some cases to clearly visualize the front of a joint and carefully access the desired area of injured or diseased bone and tissue. In some procedures it is necessary to make several incisions to manipulate tissue from different angles.

Wound care with an anterior incision is sometimes easier because the patient can often clearly see and reach it. In the initial days after surgery the patient may need assistance because bending or straining could be painful. As recovery progresses, the patient can monitor the healing and take note of any signs of problems like swelling or redness. Patients resting in surgical recovery also don’t need to worry about pressure sores and irritation caused by lying on an anterior incision, because they will likely be lying face up for comfort.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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    • An anterior incision is made in the front of the body.
      An anterior incision is made in the front of the body.