What is the Dorsal Recumbent Position

What is the Dorsal Recumbent Position? (Overview)

by | Updated: Mar 21, 2023

The dorsal recumbent position is a positioning technique in which a patient lies on their back with their legs moderately flexed and rotated outward.

This position has several uses in patient care, and that is why it is important for healthcare providers to be familiar with it. This article will provide an overview of this position and its primary uses. So, if you’re ready, let’s get into it.

What is the Dorsal Recumbent Position Used for?

The dorsal recumbent position is most commonly used for procedures that require access to the lower abdomen or pelvis. Some examples include:

  • Labor and delivery
  • Urinary catheter insertion
  • Abdominal assessment
  • External genitalia inspection
  • Vaginal examination
  • Rectal examination
  • Perineal care
  • Pelvic ultrasonography
  • Surgical procedures
  • Running IV lines
  • Drawing blood
  • Bladder draining
  • Patient comfort

The dorsal recumbent position has several indications in the healthcare setting. These are just a few common examples.

How is the Dorsal Recumbent Position Helpful?

The dorsal recumbent position is essential in healthcare because it helps with the diagnosis and treatment of many different conditions.

For example, this position allows medical professionals to assess a patient’s abdomen and pelvis, perform procedures in these areas, or insert medical devices such as catheters. It can also help to improve patient comfort by ensuring that the patient is lying at a comfortable angle.

Dorsal Recumbent Position

How is This Position Performed?

This position is simple to perform. The first step involves the patient lying on their back, typically on a table or bed. Then the patient should bend their knees slightly toward the ceiling while spreading their legs apart.

Their feet should rest flat against the surface of the bed or table, and their arms should be positioned alongside their body.

Once the patient is in position, it allows healthcare professionals to examine or perform medical procedures in the pelvic region.


The healthcare provider will need to ensure that the patient is comfortable while in the dorsal recumbent position. This may involve using pillows or other support devices to keep them stable.


The patient’s privacy should always be respected while in this position. A sheet or blanket should be used to cover the patient’s lower body, and they should be given a gown to wear if they are not already clothed.

Dorsal Recumbent Position Steps

You can place a patient in the dorsal recumbent position by using the following steps:

  1. Have the patient lie flat on their back in the supine position
  2. Instruct the patient to bend their knees towards the ceiling
  3. Instruct the patient to spread their legs apart so that the pelvic region is observable
  4. Cover the patient’s lower body for privacy

If the patient is uncomfortable, you can place a pillow or linen beneath their head. This will help to maintain the position and increase comfort.

Supine Position vs. Dorsal Recumbent Position

The supine position is when a patient lies flat on their back with their legs extended and arms at their sides. This position is the starting point for the dorsal recumbent position.

The main difference between these two positions is that in the supine position, the legs are straight, and the pelvis is not observable. In the dorsal recumbent position, the legs are bent, and the pelvis is observable.

Supine Position vs. Dorsal Recumbent Position

Risks of the Dorsal Recumbent Position

The dorsal recumbent position is typically safe for most patients. However, there are some risks and contraindications to be aware of.

For example, the most serious risk involves the duration of time spent in this position. The patient’s legs should be supported in some way that prevents excessive strain, and they should be moved regularly to avoid any pressure sores from forming.

Other potential risks include circulatory problems and breathing difficulties while lying flat on one’s back.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, the dorsal recumbent position is an essential technique in many medical procedures and assessments. It is important for healthcare providers to understand this position and how to perform it correctly.

Whether used for diagnosis, treatment, or patient comfort, its benefits are numerous. So if you’re a healthcare professional, be sure to familiarize yourself with this useful position.

Written by:

John Landry, BS, RRT

John Landry is a registered respiratory therapist from Memphis, TN, and has a bachelor's degree in kinesiology. He enjoys using evidence-based research to help others breathe easier and live a healthier life.


Recommended Reading