Surgical and Radiologic Anatomy

, Volume 33, Issue 10, pp 835–842 | Cite as

Layers of the abdominal wall: anatomical investigation of subcutaneous tissue and superficial fascia

  • Luca Lancerotto
  • Carla SteccoEmail author
  • Veronica Macchi
  • Andrea Porzionato
  • Antonio Stecco
  • Raffaele De Caro
Original Article



In recent times new surgical approaches have been developed, in which subcutaneous tissue is the primary object, such as flaps and fat removal techniques, but different descriptions and abundance of terminology persist in Literature about this tissue.

Aim and methods

In order to investigate the structure of abdominal subcutaneous tissue, macroscopic and microscopic analyses of its layers were performed in 10 fresh cadavers. Results were compared with in vivo CT images of the abdomen of 10 subjects.


The subcutaneous tissue of the abdomen comprises three layers: a superficial adipose layer (SAT), a membranous layer, and a deep adipose layer (DAT). The SAT presented fibrous septa that defined polygonal-oval lobes of fat cells with a mean circularity factor of 0.856 ± 0.113. The membranous layer is a continuous fibrous membrane rich in elastic fibers with a mean thickness of 847.4 ± 295 μm. In the DAT the fibrous septa were predominantly obliquely-horizontally oriented, defining large, flat, polygonal lobes of fat cells (circularity factor: mean 0.473 ± 0.07). The CT scans confirm these findings, showing a variation of the thickness of the SAT, DAT and membranous layer according with the subjects and with the regions.


The distinction of SAT and DAT and their anatomic differences are key elements in modern approaches to liposuction. The membranous layer appears to be also a dissection plane which merits further attention. According with the revision of Literature, the Authors propose that the term “superficial fascia” should only be used as a synonym for the membranous layer.


Superficial fascia Hypodermis Scarpa’s fascia Camper’s fascia Abdominoplasty Liposuction 



The authors are grateful to Anna Rambaldo and Gloria Sarasin for their skilful technical assistance. They also thank Euganea Medica for support for the radiological study.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Luca Lancerotto
    • 1
  • Carla Stecco
    • 2
    Email author
  • Veronica Macchi
    • 2
  • Andrea Porzionato
    • 2
  • Antonio Stecco
    • 3
  • Raffaele De Caro
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medical-Surgical Specialities, Institute of Plastic SurgeryUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  2. 2.Section of Anatomy, Department of Human Anatomy and PhysiologyUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly
  3. 3.Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ClinicUniversity of PadovaPadovaItaly

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