On this page, you’ll find common or once-common surgical incisions. Knowing different types of incisions can give you an idea of a patient’s surgical history after visual inspection during the physical exam.

Chevron incision

  • Subcostal incision that extends from mid to lateral along the lateral costal ridge, across the midline to the contralateral side
  • For hepatic, pancreatic, upper GI, adrenal, or renal surgeries

Clamshell incision

  • Large transverse incision that spans entire chest wall; also known as bilateral thoracotomy
  • For massive chest trauma, lung transplant, or resection of chest tumors                                                             

Infraumbilical incision

  • Incision made inferior to umbilicus in lower abdomen; can be transverse or vertical
  • For access into the peritoneum through the tissues surrounding the umbilicus (e.g., Hassan port)

Inguinal incision (groin incision)

  • Single, long incision in the groin
  • For open inguinal hernia repairs

Joel-Cohen incision

  • Transverse lower abdominal incision made 3 centimeters inferior to the line joining the anterior superior iliac spines
  • Similar to Pfannenstiel incision
  • For Cesarean sections

Kocher incision (subcostal incision)

  • Subcostal incision on the right side of the abdomen
  • For exposure of gallbladder and biliary tree

Maylard incision (Mackenrodt incision)

  • Transverse incision 6 cm above the pubic tubercle made through the rectus abdominis through the linea alba
  • For gynecologic surgeries

McBurney incision (Gridiron incision)

  • Oblique incision that extends ⅔ from umbilicus to ASIS
  • For open appendectomies

Median sternotomy incision

  • Vertical incision along the sternum – sternum is later sawed in half
  • For heart and lung surgeries

Mercedes-Benz incision

  • Modification of chevron incision
  • Classic chevron incision with a vertical incision that extends through the xiphoid and sternum
  • For liver transplants or epigastric pathology that needs adequate exposure for debulking/removal

Midline laparotomy incision

  • Vertical incision along the midline of the abdomen; can extend from xiphoid process to pubic symphysis, curving around umbilicus 
  • For open abdominal surgeries, including emergency surgeries

Paramedian incision

  • Abdominal incision made a few centimeters lateral to midline
  • For surgeries requiring exposure of lateral organs (e.g., stomach, liver, spleen, kidneys, adrenal glands)

Pararectus incision

  • Incision made through semilunar line laterally to rectus abdominis
  • For Spigelian hernia or ostomy (if modified)

Pfannenstiel incision

  • Transverse lower abdominal incision made superior to pubic ridge
  • For urologic, orthopedic, pelvic, or Cesarean sections

Rockey-Davis incision (Lanz incision)

  • Horizontal incision at McBurney’s point
  • For open appendectomies

Subclavicular incision (infraclavicular incision)

  • Incision made just inferior to the clavicle
  • For surgeries requiring access to subclavian vessels

Supraclavicular incision

  • Transverse incision made superior to the clavicle
  • For surgeries requiring access to subclavian vessels
  • Can meet sternotomy incision or cervical incision in order to provide better visualization to cervical or thoracic anatomy

Supraumbilical incision

  • Incision made above the umbilicus, ⅓ of the way between umbilicus and xiphoid process
  • For access into the peritoneum through the tissues surrounding the umbilicus

Thoracoabdominal incision (Ivor Lewis incision)

  • Vertical incision through left or right upper quadrant and extended through eighth intercostal space from medial to lateral
  • For exposure to lateral organs, retroperitoneal space, pleural space, and distal esophagus
    • Left-sided: for exposure to stomach and distal esophagus
    • Right-sided: for exposure to hepatic and right kidney

Trapdoor incision

  • Incision that is a combination of collar incision, sternotomy, and extends below pectoral muscles
  • Rarely used
  • For control of bleeding from penetrating trauma to zone three of the neck and aortic arch aneurysms