November 5, 2023
In pathology, the term proximal is used to describe the part of a tissue closest to the midline of the body. For example, the colon is a long tube that starts at the end of the small bowel and ends at the anal canal. The colon is divided into six parts: cecum, ascending colon, transverse colon, descending colon, sigmoid colon, and rectum. The cecum would be described as the proximal part of the colon because it is closer to the midline of the body.
The word proximal can be used even when only a part of an organ is removed. For example, if the sigmoid colon and rectum are surgically removed, the sigmoid colon would be described as the proximal part of the specimen and the rectum would be described as the distal part of the specimen.
The opposite of proximal is distal. Distal is used to describe the part of a tissue farthest from the midline of the body. Based on the example above, the rectum would be considered the distal part of the colon.
This article was written by doctors to help you read and understand your pathology report. Contact us if you have questions about this article or your pathology report. For a complete introduction to your pathology report, read this article.