Anterior abdominal wall

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Surface anatomy of the front of the thorax and abdomen.

The anterior abdominal wall is the anterior wall covering the abdominal cavity.

Bony landmarks

  • superiorly - right and left costal margins, meeting at the infrasternal angle where the xiphoid process is located
  • inferiorly - right and left pubic crests, pubic tubercles, and more laterally, the anterior superior iliac spines and iliac crests.
  • Source: [1]

Surface Features

  • Umbilicus: lies in the midline at roughly the L3-4 vertebral level, although its position varies, depending on the amount of subcutaneous fat
  • The following linear surface landmarks are caused by underlying structures, and are particularly noticeable in muscular people with little body fat:
    1. linea alba: vertically, in the midline
    2. linea semilunaris: more lateral
    3. transversely, between the umbilicus and the xiphoid process, there are 3 tendinous intersections


  1. Skin (Superficial)
  2. Superficial fascia
    • Camper's fascia - fatty
    • Scarpa's fascia - membranous layer deep to the fatty layer allowing the skin in the lower part of the abdominal wall to move more freely. Inferiorly attached to the thigh (fascia lata) and medially continuous with Colle's fascia
  3. Deep fascia - almost non-existent and may be disregarded
  4. Rectus sheath
  5. Rectus abdominis muscles
  6. Transversalis fascia
  7. Extraperitoneal tissue
  8. Parietal peritoneum (Deep)
The Obliquus externus abdominis


Blood Supply

  • Superior epigastric (from internal thoracic) artery
  • Inferior epigastric (from external iliac) artery - supplies much of the area below the umbilicus
  • musculophrenic
  • subcostal
  • intercostal
  • lumbar


  • Thoracoabdominal (T7-T9) - enters rectus sheath
  • subcostal (T12) - enters rectus sheath
  • Iliohypogastric (L1)
    • does not enter sheath
    • suprapubic
  • Ilioinguinal (L1) - Enters superficial inguinal ring


  • From the region above the umbilicus:
    • superficial lymphatics drain to axillary lymph nodes
  • below the umbilicus:
    • Superficial lymphatics drain to superficial inguinal nodes
  • The deep lymph vessels of the abdominal wall follow the arteries and drain into three main groups of lymph nodes:
    1. (para)sternal nodes - from above the umbilicus
    2. external iliac nodes - from below the umbilicus
    3. lumbar (para-aortic) nodes - more laterally