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Adapting to Decreasing Availability of Cadaveric Anatomical Specimens

BodyViz Offers an Additional Opportunity for Accessing Real Human Anatomy

December 17, 2018

Real Human Anatomy Visualization Software

By: Dr. Bob Tallitsch

How comfortable would you be having a physician treat you, or a surgeon operate on you, if he or she had never seen the inside of a human body because their training in medical school didn’t include access to real human anatomy? Due to the decrease in the number of people willing to donate their body for cadaveric dissection, such a scenario is becoming more and more of a real possibility. Studies have shown that in some countries, as well as in some regions within the U.S., the number of people willing to donate their body for cadaveric dissection following death is decreasing. This decrease in the number of donors is problematic, as the number of cadavers needed for the training of future medical professionals increases world-wide.

The vast majority of SOTL (Study of Teaching and Learning) research demonstrates that cadaver dissection is still the best way for all students, but especially medical students, to learn many of the important skills needed to succeed as physicians. Some of these skills include knowing and understanding medical anatomy and 3-dimensional anatomical relationships, as well as learning how to develop and demonstrate empathy in physician-patient interactions. Even though the vast majority of anatomy educators feel that full dissection of cadaver specimens is essential, the declining numbers of cadaver specimens in many areas has led many undergraduate and professional schools to reduce the amount of dissection-based instruction in favor of alternative methods of anatomy instruction. SOTL research has demonstrated that computer-assisted instruction (CAI), such as virtual anatomy software, provides valuable opportunities to supplement cadaver-based instruction or, in some instances, completely replace cadaver-based instruction.

BodyViz Anatomy Software supplements Cadaver Lab Experiences

3D virtual anatomy software has been demonstrated to significantly increase the retention of anatomical information, the understanding of 3-dimensional anatomical relationships, and the ability to utilize this understanding in the solving of complex anatomical problems. However, several key features must be included in the software in order to obtain the positive effects demonstrated in the SOTL research involving CAI:

  • Utilization of real anatomical information/images as compared to a “modeled representation” of anatomical information
  • Inclusion of anatomical variations and pathology
  • Ability to customize the view of anatomical information (i.e. plane of section; tissue(s) being studied) and utilize that information in a repeatable format (i.e. reassemble and repeat dissection steps and/or viewing levels)

BodyViz’s 3D virtual dissection software has all of the components and characteristics that the SOTL research has demonstrated to be essential for the increased retention of anatomical information, the understanding of 3-dimensional anatomical relationships, and the ability to utilize this understanding in the solving of complex anatomical problems. BodyViz virtual anatomy software:

BodyViz’s team is available to help instructors and institutions understand that 3D virtual anatomy software can successfully assist programs that are faced with a decreasing number of anatomical donors. Unlike cadaver-based dissection, BodyViz can be used simultaneously across multiple programs and locations. As students navigate through their academic careers, BodyViz scales to meet them where they are at, whether that’s in a high school biology class, or in an advanced anatomy course in medical school. The result? Providing another outlet for students to interact and engage with real human anatomy.

To learn more about BodyViz 3D anatomy software, please schedule a demo at a time that fits your schedule, and follow the helpful links below.

Helpful Links:

Video: One-Minute BodyViz Introduction

Article: 4 Questions to Consider Before Implementing 3D Anatomy Software

Article: Real Human Anatomy for Students in Any Location

Case Study: Creighton University School of Medicine


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Bolt, S. et al. (2012) Over my dead body: Body donation and the rise in donor registrations in the Netherlands. Omega 66:57-77.

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Habicht, J.L. et al. (2018) Bodies for anatomy education in medical schools: An overview of the sources of cadavers worldwide. Acad Med 93:1293-1300.

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Mandal, S. et al. (2015) Bodies do Matter: Rethinking Anatomical Pedagogy, from the Scalpel to the mouse: A review. Int J Anat Res 34:1159-67.

McMenamin, P.G. et al. (2018) Do we really need cadavers anymore to learn anatomy in undergraduate medicine? Med Teacher 40:1020-1029.

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Nwachukwu, C. et al. (2014) Evaluating dissection in the gross anatomy course: Correlation between quality of laboratory dissection and student outcomes. Anat Sci educ 8:45-52.

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