Learning Modules - Medical Gross Anatomy
Anatomical Orientation - Page 7 of 9

Proximal - Distal
In referring to structures within the limbs specifically, the term proximal means toward the limb's attachment to the trunk, while distal means away from its attachment.
Example: The knee is proximal to the more distally placed ankle.

These terms can also be used to describe location along linear structures within the trunk, such as the digestive tract or arteries. Within these structures, the normal direction of flow determines proximal or upstream from distal or downstream. However, in veins and lymphatic vessels, blood or lymph flows distal to proximal.
Example: The descending colon is distal to the transverse and ascending colon.

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