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Ann Anat. 2018 Jul;218:156-164. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2018.02.015. Epub 2018 Apr 15.

Anatomy learning from prosected cadaveric specimens versus three-dimensional software: A comparative study of upper limb anatomy.

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Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Thessaly, 41110, Larissa, Greece.
Department of Orthopaedic Surgery and Musculoskeletal Trauma, Faculty of Medicine, University of Thessaly, 41110, Larissa, Greece.
Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, University of Thessaly, 41110, Larissa, Greece. Electronic address:



Modern, three-dimensional (3D) anatomy software is a promising teaching method, though few studies examine its effectiveness on upper limb and musculoskeletal anatomy learning. The purpose of this study is to investigate which method is associated with a better outcome, as assessed by students' performance on examinations, when comparing learning with prosections to the use of 3D software.


Two groups of undergraduate, first-year medical students without previous knowledge of anatomy were compared. Overall, 72 students attended lectures and cadaveric prosections in the laboratory (n=40), or lectures and the BioDigital Human software (n=32). Four hours of lectures and four hours of laboratory work, combining brief demonstration and independent study in small teams, were completed by each group. An anonymous examination, including tag questions from both cadaveric and 3D images, and multiple-choice questions, was held after the end of the educational process. Students' perceptions were also investigated via an anonymous questionnaire, which comprised 15 questions. Chi-square and student's t-test were used for comparisons.


Students using the 3D software showed better performance in examinations, compared to students using prosection (mean: 55.88±19.60 vs. 48±16.11; p=0.05, Cohen's d=0.5). No statistically significant difference was found regarding students' satisfaction from using each learning method (p=0.39).


Although prosection is the most common method of teaching anatomy, recent technologies, such as 3D software, are also considered useful teaching tools. However, further research has to be done before they can be safely used as a part of a multimodal curriculum, since results from this study are limited to the upper limb musculoskeletal anatomy.


Effectiveness of anatomy education; Gross anatomy education; Medical education; Musculoskeletal anatomy teaching; Prosected specimens; Three-dimensional software; Undergraduate education

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