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Transverse section, showing the relations of the capsule of the kidney.
Kidneys from behind.jpg
Human kidneys viewed from behind with spine removed
Latin spatium retroperitoneale
MeSH Retroperitoneal+Space
Dorlands/Elsevier s_16/12746619

The retroperitoneum (adj. retroperitoneal) is the anatomical space behind (retro) the abdominal cavity. It has no specific delineating anatomical structures. Organs are retroperitoneal if they only have peritoneum on their anterior side. There is a 52% chance of surviving Retroperitoneal cancer.[1]

Retroperitoneal bleeding, such as from a ruptured aortic aneurysm shows as Grey Turner's sign (flank bruising).

Secondarily retroperitoneal organs

Organs that were once suspended within the abdominal cavity by mesentery but migrated posterior to the peritoneum during the course of embryogenesis to become retroperitoneal are considered to be secondarily retroperitoneal organs.

Retroperitoneal structures

Structures that lie behind the peritoneum are termed "retroperitoneal". These include:

  • Secondarily retroperitoneal:
    • the head and neck of the pancreas (but not the tail)[2]
    • the second and third portions of the duodenum (but not the first or fourth)[3]
    • ascending and descending portions of the colon (but not the transverse or sigmoid)


The mnemonic SAD PUCKER is commonly used to remember the retroperitoneal viscera.[4]

  • Suprarenal glands
  • Aorta and Inferior vena cava
  • Duodenum
  • Pancreas (except the tail)
  • Ureter
  • Colon (ascending and descending)
  • Kidneys
  • Esophagus
  • Rectum

This one is all the abdominal retroperitoneal viscera: Ursula Uses Kids to Deliver All Lemon Pies except Sue’s Tasty Crust

  • Ureters
  • Urinary bladder
  • Kidneys
  • Duodenum
  • Adrenal glands
  • Large intestine
  • Pancreas
  • EXCEPT (not retroperitoneal!)
    • Sigmoid
    • Transverse
    • Colon

Role in disease


  2. Kyung Won, PhD. Chung (2005). Gross Anatomy (Board Review). Hagerstwon, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. p. 256. ISBN 0-7817-5309-0.
  3. "The Posterior Abdominal Wall". Retrieved 2007-11-17.
  4. Mnemonic at 510 1676

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