What Is the Lateral Recumbent Position?

The lateral recumbent position, or Sims position, is when a patient is lying on her side with the lower arm tucked behind her back and her upper thigh bent. The patient can lie on her left or her right side.

The Sims position is intended for vaginal examinations, though it is rarely used in the United States. The procedure is performed with a Sims speculum, developed by the American doctor Marion Sims. The Sims position makes it easier for the doctor to see the cervix and other structures of the vagina and is less embarrassing for the patient than the familiar lithotomy position.

The left lateral recumbent position is also used during labor and makes uncomplicated forceps deliveries and breech births easier. It is also used when the woman suffers from varicose veins, congestive heart failure or has problems with her hip joint.

A patient who undergoes a rectal exam can also be positioned in the left lateral recumbent position. In this position, it is easy for the doctor to inspect the anus for external hemorrhoids, fissures, warts or other lesions. The doctor also has access to the prostate gland and is able to feel for any tumors or masses in this organ or in the walls of the rectum.