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Acad Med. 2004 Jul;79(7):711-6.

Using fresh tissue dissection to teach human anatomy in the clinical years.

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  • 1David Geffen School of Medicine, UCLA, 90095-1722, USA.



Gross anatomy is taught in medical school with textbooks, cadaver dissection, plastic models, and multimedia illustration, but all lack the reality of color and texture that is possible with fresh tissue dissection. The authors studied the use of fresh tissue dissection of the thorax and abdomen of the rat to teach human anatomy.


In a half-day exercise, 52 fourth-year medical students paired off and completed an exercise to dissect in less than three hours the thorax and abdomen of a euthanized rat. Observation of organs was augmented by active manipulation such as passing a tube down the esophagus, cannulating the trachea and inflating the lungs, injecting dye in the kidney to trace the ureter and bladder, and pulling the testis through the inguinal canal. Comparison of the rat and human was emphasized to enhance the education. The exercise ended with practice suturing fresh tissue.


Students rated the exercise to teach anatomy as 4.9 positive on a 5.0 (high) scale. The significant positive structures (p <.05) for texture were heart, liver, lungs and trachea; for color they were lungs and spleen; for location and size they were adrenal gland and urinary bladder; and for function they were adrenal gland and esophagus.


Fresh tissue dissection of the thorax and abdomen of the rat is a valuable tool for human anatomy education. The dissonances in human and rat anatomy enhance abstraction and transfer of knowledge. Active manipulation of organs promotes retention of knowledge, and suturing provides a "clinical" context. Fresh tissue dissection is an efficient innovative method to provide a global review of anatomy of the thorax and abdomen during the busy clinical years of medical education.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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