Dorsal Recumbent Position: A Guide to Patient Positioning

Nurses are responsible for taking good care of the patients in the ward, especially those who have undergone a primary surgical treatment or require to be examined for something. Nursing guidelines also involve placing the patients in a specific position to help them quickly recover when they have witnessed any kind of injury. Amongst several patient positioning options, one of the majorly applicable is Dorsal Recumbent Position.

The dorsal Recumbent Position is one of the most common patient positions. Nurses or any other healthcare professional prefer to lay their patients in this stance for a better examination scope and comfortability of the patient. Usually, nurses have to maintain a patient positioning guideline while a surgical expert or a doctor performs any procedure. It is a way to ensure no nerve damage complication and regular air and blood circulation facilitated throughout the body.

Let’s have a detailed understanding of Dorsal Recumbent and know when they are used and whether or not there are any complications involved while laying a patient in this position?

What is Dorsal Recumbent Position?

It is vital to have an understanding and awareness about the Dorsal recumbent position definition before diving into other aspects of this patient positioning and how it differs from different positions to help a patient feel comfortable. The word ‘dorsal’ comes from a Greek word that means the Posterior or spine of a person. On the other hand, the word recumbent translates to reclining or lying down on a flat surface.

Breaking the two words has probably made it transparent to understand half about this position. Hence, Dorsal Recumbent is a stance where a patient has to lie down on a surface with their knees bent outwards and upwards and the feet resting on the ground or table. Whereas the back of the person or their spine rests on a flat surface. 

The dorsal recumbent position is the best way to lay a patient when a pelvic examination is required. All women must know this patient’s positioning since they are put in the same way when going for a quick routine check-up with their gynecologist. At times a doctor or physician would place a support under the patient’s head to make them feel more relaxed and easeful while performing a routine evaluation or doing any operative procedures or imaging tests. 

The Importance and Steps to Dorsal Recumbent Position

Every patient position has its necessity and importance. People who go through specific surgical treatment must know that before giving anesthesia to an individual, doctors or other health practitioners like nurses place the patient’s body in a particular position. It becomes easier to operate on a person, and the medical expert could thoroughly look at the patient’s affected area and anatomy. 

In the case of the Dorsal recumbent Position, most medical practitioners prefer to lay their patients in this position, especially when it concerns the physical evaluation of all the frontal and lower-to-the-abdomen areas, such as Colorectal examination, genital or pelvic examination, etc. All nurse practitioners understand that this position makes it easier for the doctor to have a good view of all the essential parts of the body, and a patient needs to be laid in dorsal recumbent when:

  • Drawing blood for tests or to donate
  • Evaluating Injuries in the Head
  • While giving birth (During labor)
  • The insertion of Catheters during a surgical procedure or post that
  • Performing Surgical procedures for treating Pelvic disease or issue.
  • The treatment of heart diseases
  • Running IV fluids. 
  • The performing of any other frontal surgical treatments

Every nurse practitioner has proper instruction and knowledge about which patient position would work best and help the person be comfortable while lying on the bed. Sometimes the patient could feel utterly uncomfortable and uneasy while lying straight on the bed or examination table. However, helping individuals lay in a Dorsal Recumbent position could relieve their pain and regulate a proper recovery. 

Steps to Help Your Patient Perform Dorsal Recumbent Position

You must follow the steps carefully to help the patient lay in a Dorsal Recumbent position and check whether they feel comfortable. All its usefulness is of any worth when you are meticulously observing and remembering the steps to help lay your patient in the position. You have a look at the Dorsal recumbent position image below to better understand the what’s and Hows here. 

  • Help your patient or a person to lie flat on their back. If they have undergone a major abdominal or any other anterior anatomy, lock hands with them, and help them lay down on their spine slowly and smoothly. 
  • You need to assist them flexing their knees in an upward(towards the roof) and outward position. The feet must be laid flat on the bed or whatever surface the patient is laying on and spread apart from each other.
  • You can cover the patient’s lower area, from the abdomen to the feet keeping in mind their privacy for genital parts visibility in the open. (This procedure is standard while women go for vaginal examination during their pregnancy or general check-up). The physician would examine the pelvic area from under the sheets. 
  • You can role a pillow under the patient’s head to help their spine remain in a proper alignment while lying on their back. However, if the physician disagrees due to an obstruction in the medical procedure or evaluation, avoid doing it. 

Tips to Remember:

You should remember that when you are helping the patient lie back on the bed, either raise the bed, and it would become easy for them to shift back and rest their back on the bed slowly. If you do not want any mobility from the patient’s side, you can always use straps to stabilize the person’s hands. Try to keep yourself close to your patient and tighten your abs and chest if you partially lift the patient. Keep your stance tight and stiff so that you may not lose the grip. 

Also Read: The Detailed Guide About Rectus Abdominis Exercise

What Are the Other Patient Positioning Options?

Other patient positioning options are available based on the need and examination of the patient’s specific anatomy. So here are some different positions to lay a patient other than Dorsal Recumbent.


dorsal recumbent position


In this position, a patient has to lay on their back and face towards the roof in a straight direction. The only difference between supine and dorsal recumbent position is how the feet are placed on the flat surface. In a Supine position, the patient needs to stretch their legs straight instead of bending them outwards and upwards. 

Patients usually resting in bed are laid in a Supine position. With their hands either on the abdomen or lying straight on the side. Also, in a Supine position, one can keep a pillow or other prop beneath their head. To support their spine’s alignment while laying down. Other than that, this position is preferred during surgeries or other examination processes.


dorsal recumbent position


It is a patient position similar to Supine but different in one aspect. In the prone position, rather than lying down on the back. A nurse practitioner helps their patient lie on the chest or abdomen. Their back facing towards the roof with face down.

The hands are positioned upwards in a neutral position or turned on one side. The inclined position provides a better view of the dorsal part of the patient. Medical practitioners prefer the prone position when they have to perform spinal, neck, or hip surgeries. 


dorsal recumbent position


This is a position one would generally see in a dentist’s clinic. An assistant doctor or nurse practitioner would help the patient lay down on a chair. That is in a reclining position. The patient would sit on the same with the knees slightly bent upwards and outwards. 


dorsal recumbent position


This position is somewhat similar to supine; however, instead of stretching the legs or spreading the legs like a dorsal recumbent position, a patient has to place their leg over the boot-style leg holders, which are placed in a position that raises the led in a 90-degree angle. Like the dorsal position, it is use for procedures like colorectal, perineal, urological, etc. 

dorsal recumbent position


Bottom Line!

You should know that the dorsal recumbent position does have many risks where if a patient stays in that position for too long, they can have significant health problems. However, the risk would indeed depend on the age factor and any severe health condition. If the patient is a heart patient, they tend to suffer from any blood circulatory problems

Patients lying in that position for a long time and are entirely bedridden can suffer from bedsores and nerve issues. Hence, the position is suitable only during an examination or performing specific surgical procedures or tests.

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