Dorsal Recumbent Position | Definition and Purpose

The dorsal recumbent position involves a person lying on their back with their knees bent up in an outward position.

The person will lie on the ground, bed, table, or resting platform while resting in this position.

It allows medical professionals to examine and observe the pelvic area easily.

Regarding the term dorsal recumbent position, the word “dorsal” refers to the back (posterior) or spine of a human/animal.

Additionally, “recumbent” means to lie down/recline, typically in a comfortable position.

In short, a person lays on their back with their knees flexed upward and outward while the soles of the feet rest flat on the surface to perform the dorsal recumbent position.

Nevertheless, a medical professional may use a prop to lift the head and back when needed.

Why is the Dorsal Recumbent Position Important?

The dorsal recumbent position is essential in the healthcare profession.

Medical professionals use the dorsal recumbent position during medical procedures to diagnose and treat medical issues.

This position allows physicians, nurse practitioners, and healthcare experts to observe their patient’s anatomy’s anterior/ventral parts.

It includes the head, neck, thorax/chest (heart and lungs), abdomen, genitals, and rectum.

A healthcare professional can examine and identify medical issues related to these body parts.

It includes head injuries, heart complications, abdominal pain, genital problems, and other medical concerns.

Medical professionals also use the dorsal recumbent position to implement IV lines, give birth, and perform surgical operations.

Uses for the Dorsal Recumbent Position:

  • Physical examinations (rectal, genital, vaginal)
  • Surgical operations
  • Drawing blood
  • Running IV lines
  • Bladder draining
  • Giving birth (Child delivery)

How to Perform a Dorsal Recumbent Position

Performing the dorsal recumbent position is pretty straightforward.

An individual lays on their back and lifts their knees toward the ceiling.

After that, the individual spreads their legs apart while resting the soles of their feet on a flat surface.

In most cases, an individual lays on a bed, table, or flat surface while performing the dorsal recumbent position. 

Next, the individual places their head toward the ceiling.

They may use a pillow or linen to prop the head up and keep the neck and spine properly aligned.

Finally, the individual’s arms lay alongside the body to keep the neck, chest, and abdomen visible.

It allows medical professionals to easily observe the pelvic region for an examination or medical procedure.

A medical professional may support the patient’s arms in some situations (such as during an operation).

It’s accomplished by placing the arms on a board and securing them using straps.

It prevents accidental movement while operating on the patient’s body.

Medical professionals may also isolate and support the legs/thighs with straps.

It gives the surgeon/physician an adequate operating angle to properly conduct their procedure.

Medical professionals may cover the patient’s lower extremities with a blanket, sheet, or gown.

It keeps the patient’s private parts from being openly exposed and provides additional comfort and privacy.

The medical professional will drape the blanket around the abdominal area and over the legs.

As a result, it adequately covers the genitals and legs before, during, and after an examination/procedure.

Dorsal Recumbent Position Steps:

  1. Lie down on a flat, comfortable surface
  2. Prop the head up using a pillow or linen if necessary
  3. Lay arms down along the sides of the body to prevent obstructing the view of the thorax and abdomen
  4. Bend the knees upward and outward toward the ceiling, so the pelvic area is easily observable for an examination
  5. Place a sheet or blanket over the lower extremities from the abdomen to the feet to cover the pelvis and genitals for better privacy

Dorsal Recumbent Position vs. Supine Position

The dorsal recumbent position is similar to the supine position.

An individual lies face up with their legs straight and arms resting on the abdomen or by the individual’s sides.

Individuals modify this position by flexing the knees upward while positioning the soles of the feet flat on the ground, bed, or table on which the individual rests.

The bending of the knees and planted soles transforms the supine position into what is known as the dorsal recumbent position.

As with the dorsal recumbent position, an individual resting in the supine position may also use a pillow or head prop to keep the head and spine aligned while laying down.

Other Common Examination Positions

Besides the dorsal recumbent position, specialists use other positions to examine patients and perform procedures.

It includes the supine, fetal, sims (posterior view), prone, knee-chest, standing, squatting, sitting, and lithotomy positions.

There are dozens of anatomical positions healthcare professionals use for various testing.

Each anatomical position places the body in a specific stance to make conducting examinations and tests easier.

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