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Medical professionals use anatomical terminology to refer to positions relative to the midline of the body, and other specifics. While these words may be unfamiliar in everyday conversation, they are more precise. Words used in anatomical terminology are usually derived from Greek and Latin and have not changed much over time. Using this precise language is important, as it can help avoid medical errors and ambiguity when it comes to caring for a patient.

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1. Anatomical Position

To increase precision, medical professionals use a standard map of the body that details the anatomical position. Using a standard position clarifies the area the doctor is describing, eliminating any confusion between practitioners. In the anatomical position, the body is standing upright. The feet are shoulder-width apart and parallel to one another, with the toes facing forward. The arms are extended to the side, palms facing forward. Anatomical terminology refers to body parts assuming the body is in this position. In other words, even if a person is sitting or lying down, practitioners apply descriptors as if they were standing in the anatomical position.

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