Date Published:Apr 2016
RATIONALE AND OBJECTIVES: Anatomy is an essential component of medical education as it is critical for the accurate diagnosis in organs and human systems. The mental representation of the shape and organization of different anatomical structures is a crucial step in the learning process. The purpose of this pilot study is to demonstrate the feasibility and benefits of developing innovative teaching modules for anatomy education of first-year medical students based on three-dimensional (3D) reconstructions from actual patient data. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A total of 196 models of anatomical structures from 16 anonymized computed tomography datasets were generated using the 3D Slicer open-source software platform. The models focused on three anatomical areas: the mediastinum, the upper abdomen, and the pelvis. Online optional quizzes were offered to first-year medical students to assess their comprehension in the areas of interest. Specific tasks were designed for students to complete using the 3D models. RESULTS: Scores of the quizzes confirmed a lack of understanding of 3D spatial relationships of anatomical structures despite standard instruction including dissection. Written task material and qualitative review by students suggested that interaction with 3D models led to a better understanding of the shape and spatial relationships among structures, and helped illustrate anatomical variations from one body to another. CONCLUSIONS: The study demonstrates the feasibility of one possible approach to the generation of 3D models of the anatomy from actual patient data. The educational materials developed have the potential to supplement the teaching of complex anatomical regions and help demonstrate the anatomical variation among patients.