Virtual dissection table

Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry is the first in the South West to invest in the ‘cutting edge’ technology of a virtual dissection table, which will be used to teach anatomy to medical, dental and physician associate students.

There are currently only 16 of such tables in use in medical schools across the UK, with the nearest in London and Birmingham.

The Anatomage Table is the most technologically advanced anatomy virtual dissection and visualisation system for anatomy education. The technology works like a large tablet pre-programmed with male and female subjects taken from a combination of the Korean Visible Human collection and Computed-Tomography (CT) data sets from real people. Data sets include detailed anatomy of specific organs and areas of the body, and a vast library of digital pathological examples.

The table allows users to virtually ‘peel back’ layers of tissue to reveal underlying structures. Users can rotate the bodies, zoom in on specific areas and isolate particular organs or physical structures for closer examination. It has also been pre-programmed with images showing various clinical conditions, such as collapsed lungs or arthritic joints, allowing students to better understand the related anatomy, surgical approaches and how the condition must affect the patient.

The Anatomage Table is the latest in a range of state-of-the-art technology used to teach anatomy at Plymouth University. The innovative medical curriculum was designed so students experience anatomy as they would in real life clinical encounters, from the outside in of a living patient, rather than a cadaver.

The anatomy course uses a combination of volunteer model patients, surface anatomy, medical imaging, plastic and computer-animated models to ensure students have a thorough understanding of the 3D nature of anatomy, normal variation and pathology across individuals.

All biomedical sciences teaching, including anatomy, follows the life cycle. With each of the first two years starting with conception and ending with old age. This allows subjects to be revisited in greater detail each subsequent year: rather than cramming all anatomy into the early years of study as is traditionally done.

Dr Siobhan Moyes is Lead in Anatomy and Tissue Pathology at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry.

She said: 

“I was taught anatomy the traditional way using cadavers. While dissection can be a valuable learning opportunity it is common for inexperienced students to cut the structures they’re looking for, or are not able to find them in the mass of tissue: the Anatomage Table solves this problem. It also has the added benefits of being able to isolate a structure and look around it 360° to understand how it interacts with the surrounding anatomy. This facility is also available for students to use outside of teaching sessions to consolidate their learning.”
She added: 

“There are also structures that are technically difficult to dissect out using traditional techniques, which can now be done in seconds with the touch of the screen. We are extremely pleased that the University has invested in this virtual dissection table as it allows us to take advantage of cutting edge technology to give students a useful learning tool.”
Dr Grant Mitchell is a Senior Lecturer in Radiology at Plymouth University Peninsula Schools of Medicine and Dentistry and a Consultant Radiologist at Derriford Hospital. He said: 

“Like Siobhan, I was taught anatomy at medical school using traditional cadaveric dissection. We now have many more options when teaching anatomy, and in my opinion, virtual dissection is the most exciting and realistic development line. The Anatomage Table will allow us to create virtual models and teaching cases from real, anonymised CT scan data meaning the potential is huge. The technology has widespread use in medical schools in the US and is gaining momentum in the UK – we are delighted to be an early adopter and the first medical school in the South West to embed this technology in our teaching.”