An Overview of Patient Positioning in Healthcare

April 11, 2023

patient positionsEnsuring proper patient positioning is crucial in healthcare settings. It helps healthcare professionals perform safe, successful procedures and provides comfort for patients undergoing treatment or recovery. Proper positioning also helps to prevent potential complications such as nerve damage or pressure ulcers.  

Types of Patient Positions 

There are many different patient positions that medical professionals use. These include Supine, Prone, Lateral, Fowler’s, Lithotomy, Trendelenburg, Reverse Trendelenburg, and Sims’. Each position has various benefits depending on the type of procedure and the needs of the patient.   

Supine Position

In Supine, the patient lies flat on their back with their arms down at their sides. This is one of the most common positions in a hospital setting, as it allows medical professionals access to the chest and abdomen area during procedures such as transfusions or intubation. This position also helps prevent nerve damage and pressure ulcers caused by being in one position too long.  

AliMed® AliBlue™ Gel Supine Positioning Sets are designed to offer complete pressure redistribution and nerve protection for the most frequently occurring high-risk areas while in the supine position. This multipurpose set is highly convenient and versatile, making it an ideal choice for various common procedures.  

Prone Position 

The Prone position is when a patient lies face-down on their stomach with their arms outstretched or tucked underneath them. This may be used for certain procedures that require access to the back of the body. The prone position can also be used to help relieve pain associated with conditions affecting the musculoskeletal system.  

AliMed® AliLite™ Prone Positioning Sets include all the essential components required for effective pressure redistribution and nerve protection for vulnerable areas during prone procedures. The set features a range of solutions specifically designed to offload pressure and maintain proper prone positioning.  

Lateral Position

The Lateral position is when a patient lies on the non-operative side of their body with one arm bent up towards their head and the other extended towards their feet. This position may be used for various procedures such as X-rays or drawing blood. The lateral position helps provide access to veins located on either side of the body and helps keep patients comfortable during medical exams and treatments.  

KYRA® Lateral Positioning Sets provide secure and comfortable positioning for surgical procedures that require total lateral stability. The set is fully adjustable to any angle, ensuring optimal patient positioning during procedures. The swivel heads of the set are designed to conform to the anatomical contours of the patient, providing precise positioning that can be securely locked in place.  

AliMed® AliLite™ Lateral Positioning Sets include unique lateral and leg positioners that together protect each leg independently while accommodating the shoulders and arms. 

Fowler's Position  

Fowler's position requires the patient in a semi-sitting position between 30 and 90 degrees. This positioning technique has been found to be particularly helpful in enhancing breathing and digestion. It enables greater expansion of the lungs and stomach, resulting in optimal functioning.  

There are also several variations of this position that differ based on the angle of the patient. For example, Semi-Fowler’s position uses a lower angle, usually between 15 and 45 degrees. In High Fowler’s position, the patient is angled between 60 and 90 degrees.  

The AliMed® Versa-Board offers safe and easy arm support in Fowler’s and many other surgical positions, with a three-point adjustment system that provides an infinite combination of settings when used with a Clark socket. It also features a soft pad for increased patient comfort. 

Lithotomy Position  

The Lithotomy position requires that the patient lie flat on their back while keeping their knees flexed and thighs apart. This position is typically used during medical procedures such as childbirth or pelvic exams as it provides better access to certain areas of the body. It also helps move fluids downward, which helps make certain medical procedures easier for both patients and clinicians alike.  

KYRA® Lithotomy Stirrups are designed to provide an exceptional lithotomy range of motion, offering an additional 22° compared to traditional stirrups. By providing a wider range of motion, healthcare professionals can access surgical sites more easily, helping them perform precise and accurate surgical maneuvers with ease.  

Trendelenburg Position  

The Trendelenburg position is a variation of supine in which the table is tilted so that the patient’s head is positioned lower than their feet. The lower part of the table is adjusted so that the patient’s legs are parallel to the floor. This position provides additional visualization of the lower abdomen and pelvis and is also frequently used during robotic procedures. To allow the patient’s heart to adjust to changes in blood volume, movement into and out of this position should be done slowly.  

AliMed® SecureFit® TPS Trendelenberg Positioning Systems deliver a simple, safe, and secure way to position patients for Trendelenburg procedures with dramatically reduced set-up time. The system enables full access to the abdomen and chest wall and is uniquely contoured to cradle the patient’s natural curvature, delivering maximum pressure redistribution and support with minimal slipping.  

Reverse Trendelenburg Position 

In the Reverse Trendelenburg position, an individual lies on their back, typically at an angle of 15 to 30 degrees. This position helps reduce venous pooling in the legs by allowing blood flow from the lower extremities to return easily to the heart without having to fight gravity. It's often used after surgery or during recovery periods due to its beneficial effects on circulation.  

Like the Trendelenberg position, movements should be done slowly to allow the patient’s heart to adjust to blood volume changes. KYRA® Nissen Straps help prevent the patient from slipping during Reverse Trendelenburg positioning and mount to any standard U.S. surgical table side rail with flat blade table clamps.  

Sims' Position 

In Sims', a patient is positioned lying on the left side with the left hip and lower extremity straight and the right hip and knee bent. It is important to cushion pressure points like the knee, head, and elbow. This positioning allows for visualization of the perineum and reduces the pressure on the hips and sacrum, making it a common position used for enemas, during pregnancy or childbirth, or with unconscious or paralyzed patients.  

Improving Patient Outcomes  

Proper patient positioning allows healthcare professionals to provide high-quality care that addresses the unique needs of each individual patient. To ensure optimal results during medical treatments, a discussion between clinicians and the patient is highly recommended. Establishing clear communication about the different positions that may be used before, during, and after the procedure can help improve the patient’s comfort and safety. This, in addition to proper positioning, leads to better outcomes, faster recovery times, and improved patient satisfaction. 


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