What Is the Sims' Position?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 13 April 2014
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A healthcare practitioner might have to place a patient into the Sims' position for any number of reasons. Laying face-down on a bed or examination table, the patient lifts one hip by pulling one knee to the chest, pointing the head in that same position. This allows for easy access to the rectal cavity, whether for examination, colonic therapy or other more intensive surgical procedures like a colonoscopy.

The Sims' position is not the only medical device or practice named after 19th century Alabama gynecologist J. Marion Sims. The Sims' speculum, or duck-billed speculum, is still in use today to give doctors greater access to regions of the uterus most effected by a condition of childbirth called vesico-vaginal fistula, which is tearing of the tissue between the vagina and bladder, as opposed to the typical tearing that can occur between vagina and anus. After controversial surgeries performed on slave labor over a decade or more, Sims discovered a way to repair these tears. The resulting procedure and other developments earned him the title among many American OB-GYN practitioners as the "father of gynecology."

It is not difficult to help a patient assume the Sims' position. First, the patient assumes the semi-prone position, face-down on the bed. One arm points downward from the shoulder, and the other arm points upward on the side the head is facing. The knee on that facing side is then half-flexed to slightly raise one hip and open the buttocks to reveal the sphincter.


Once the rectal cavity is exposed, a range of procedures can be performed. In a medical setting, this could be for an examination of a patient's hemorrhoids or an endoscopic procedure called a colonoscopy, which may or may not involve the removal of a tumor or cyst from the lower regions of the digestive tract. In a preventative health environment, colonics are performed with patients in the Sims' position. This is also a preferred position for women in the later stages of pregnancy.

Medical professionals have a range of patient positions in their arsenal. Some of the most basic of these is the supine position, with the patient flat on his or her back and a pillow under the head, or the prone position, with the patient flat on his or her stomach. Another position named after its creator is Fowler's position. Created by New York surgeon George Fowler in the late 19th century, this position involves the supine position and the patient's upper torso to be elevated at various levels depending on the purpose — from a low angle to ease abdominal tension to a high level for meal time.


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