Thursday, January 20, 2022

Proximal vs Distal: What’s the Difference & What Do They Mean?

The Survival Medic provides general information that does not substitute for individual medical advice. Most scenarios assume the victim cannot get expert medical help. Please see the disclaimer.

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Put simply, the term “distal” means farther away, whereas “proximal” means closest to.

Distally refers to anything that is further away from a point of reference, whereas proximal is something that is closest too.

Medically speaking, it is often used anatomically in speaking about a wound in relationship to the heart which in this case would be the point of reference.

The left side of the injury (illustrated as being closed with duct tape) is distal to the heart, while the right side (represented as being open) is proximal to it.

Proximal vs Distal: What’s the Difference?

In medical terms, distal and proximal (or distally and proximally) are used to designate anatomical locations.

With reference to a wound on the ankle, for example, the toes are the most distal, the hip the most proximal.

proximal vs distal

For another example and to explain the picture above a bit better, if you have an arm that is extended you would see that your wrist is farther away than your elbow (using your heart as point of reference) and so your wrist would be distal as its farther than your elbow, and your elbow would be proximal because it’s closer to your chest than your wrist.

Takeaway

Does that make sense? Knowing the difference is important mostly for medical scenarios which require diagnosis and is not generally essential for survivalists, but a good thing to know nonetheless.

References

  1. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002287.htm
  2. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002346.htm

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