Advances in Anatomical and Medical Visualisation

Advances in Anatomical and Medical Visualisation

Paul Michael Rea (University Of Glasgow, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0039-1.ch011


Advances in digital technologies are rapidly progressing, and as such, those involved in education at all levels have to adapt our educational methodologies to ensure effective and validated pedagogical methods in our teaching practice. One such area rapidly progressing is that of anatomical and medical visualisation. With such a rich and prestigious history, the subject of anatomy is at the forefront of these advances. This chapter highlights the history of anatomy in medical education, and clearly illustrates the key changes that are paramount to our digital natives learning today. With the advent of a new MSc in Medical Visualisation and Human Anatomy which bridges the gap between traditional and modern techniques in anatomical education, this chapter clearly illustrates how to amalgamate traditional teaching methodologies with those of the digital age. It will also highlight key areas to enhance employability of students entering employment in an ever-changing market.
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Anatomical knowledge and understanding has dated back to the Egyptian times circa 1600 BCE. The first writing that documented anatomical, and indeed medical and surgical history was the Edwin Smith Papyrus, named after the American Egyptologist who purchased it (“An ancient medical treasure,” 2010.). It details 48 surgical cases, but also lays out a foundation for describing the type of injury, how to undertake a diagnosis, the longer term prognosis, as well as the treatment and any further explanations.

Since that time, many famous names in anatomical and medical circles contributed to knowledge and understanding including Hippocrates of Kos (4th-5th century), Aristotle, Herpohilos and Erasistratus (4th century BC) and Galen (2nd century BC). More significant works, which influenced development in the progression of anatomy, included the Canon of Medicine (completed in 1025, and influenced well into the 16th century) and then De Humani Corporis Fabrica by Andreas Vesalius, based on actual cadaveric dissection.

Indeed, even from the Renaissance, anatomical teaching has been undertaken using cadavers (Persaud, 1984). This also extended into the 16th and 17th centuries, especially with the influence of William and John Hunter in advancing anatomical knowledge and understanding (Moore, 2005). Since these times cadaveric based anatomical teaching became the mainstay of medical education. As such, there was a surge in private anatomical schools along with hospital based training courses. Into 1822, the Royal College of Surgeons came to the agreement that short courses would no longer be acceptable to enter the college diploma. Shortly after this in 1832, the Anatomy Act echoed this opinion too about medical training, and specifically the use of the cadaver. This resulted in a shift in the way anatomy and medical training occurred. Previously, it was more of an apprenticeship model that was used where the student and the instructor would work closely with each other. The move towards more of a professional development course using the deceased from a hospital based environment, and where larger numbers of students were taught together was more favoured (McLachlan & Patten, 2006).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Anatomy: A branch of science dealing with body structure.

Visible Human Project: A digital anatomical teaching project.

Virtual Human Body: A way to visualise the human body with technology.

Cadaver: A person who donates their body after death.

Apps: A digital application.

Medical Visualisation: The means by which medical data can be used in creating an effective meaningful visual representation.

Digital Natives: Our new generation which use technology for information.

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