Cadaver and Computer Use in the Teaching of Gross Anatomy in Physical Therapy Education

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT: The teaching of gross anatomy is an

integral part of the physical therapy curriculum.

The purpose of this study was to ascertain the

trends and opinions associated with the use of

cadavers and computers in teaching anatomy

in physical therapist education programs. A

two-page survey instrument was sent to the

anatomy educators at each of the accredited

physical therapy programs in the United States.

The survey instrument contained questions re

garding the utilization and opinions associated

with the use of cadavers and computers in teach

ing anatomy. Of the responding programs,

89.2% utilized cadavers and 60.9% incorpo

rated computers into the anatomy class. These

results indicate that cadaver use has remained

relatively constant since 1992, whereas com

puter use has increased. Overall, anatomy ed

ucators prefer the use of cadavers to comput

ers when teaching anatomy.


The teaching of gross anatomy is an integral part of the physical therapy curriculum. Anatomy is one of the building blocks of knowledge necessary to develop the skills needed to effectively evaluate and treat patients. Traditionally, gross anatomy has been taught through cadaver dissection.1 However, rising costs and cadaver availability have prompted colleges and universities to develop alternative ways of teaching anatomy. Prosection of the cadavers by instructors and the use of computer-assisted instruction are alternative methods of teaching human anatomy. The focus of this study was on the utilization and opinions associated with computer and cadaver use in teaching anatomy in physical therapy education. This study attempted, through a survey instrument sent to accredited physical therapist education programs, to identify the frequency of utilization of computers and cadavers.

Concerns facing many staff and students regarding dissection of cadavers include the health risks involved from spending extended periods of time over formalinized wet specimens, decreased availability of human cadavers, and issues surrounding staff recruitment and training in anatomy dissection. These concerns are prompting many institutions to revamp their current anatomy program. One method currently being explored is the use of anatomyintensive computer programs, which are more readily available than human cadavers.1

A review of the literature revealed a limited amount of information specifically regarding the teaching of anatomy to physical therapist students. Most of the literature concerning anatomy instruction methods focuses primarily on medical school education.1-3 These studies discussed the need to develop methods to decrease the time of cadaver dissection laboratories and the need to decrease costs. The literature reveals studies conducted that compared alternative anatomy teaching methods with traditional cadaver dissection. 1-3 In a study at Emory University, Jones et al2 utilized a multimedia teaching method combined with opportunities to manipulate prosected specimens in place of the traditional dissection laboratory due to time constraints within the program. They reported that after a 5-year period, there was no significant difference in performance between the students who used prosected cadavers and those who used traditional cadaver dissection.

An increase in student:cadaver ratios prompted Nnodim1 to evaluate an alternative program for anatomy education that also excluded dissection of specimens by students and incorporated prosected specimens. The researchers compared the performance of students in a control group involved in cadaver dissection with the performance of students in an experimental group who used specimens previously prosected by the instructors. The experimental group spent an average of 25 minutes reviewing the material for the laboratory before entering to study prosected cadavers. …


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