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Dissecting cadavers, as gruesome as it may be, has always provided medical students with the hands-on experience they need to learn their way about the human body outside of the textbooks. The look and feel of healthy and unhealthy tissues, organs and systems is something any budding physician or surgeon needs to become familiar with before they can be trusted to treat a living body.
At Idaho State University, however, there’s a new technology in town that’s making intimate explorations of the human body possible without the need for all the gore (or the unpleasant smells) and it’s what they’re calling a 21st Century cadaver table. This technology consists of a sophisticated touch screen program that shows a digital, life-sized human body. By manipulating the touch screen, medical students can lift layers of skin, muscle and organs to examine just how everything fits together, looks and works.
According to Brian Atkinson, an Instructional Technologist at ISU, the program “lets us view the anatomy in full size and, actually, once it gets on the screen you get to view it even larger than life.”
The educational value of these touch screen cadaver tables, which are valued at $70,000 apiece, is huge. Real cadavers are somewhat hard to come by, they’re also expensive and once you’ve removed an organ or tissue – once you’ve made an incision – you can’t undo it. Being able to remove an organ, peel back the skin or lift a muscle and then put it back again gives students an intimate understanding of how the human body is put together and how it functions.
“With digital versions, with the touch of a button, we can remove those muscles and put them back in. They can peel it back as many times as they want to and put it all together again,” said Atkinson.
These touch screen tables are also allowing students to dive deeper into anatomy than ever before because there is no limit on how much time, or exposure they can have to the body. They can play around on the system as long as they want because they’re not butchering a real cadaver.
The Idaho State University has three of these touch screen cadaver tables and they’re not only using it to train their budding physicians but also to encourage high school students to become doctors! The touch screen technology employed is very user friendly and intuitive, enabling people of all ages to navigate around on it. Even high school students have been able to go in to ISU and play with the touch screens and many have left saying that they want to become doctors.
In addition to training students, local surgical teams are able to upload CAT scans of patients to view and manipulate the data in 3D. This can help surgical teams collaborate on patient cases and come to a consensus on the best possible treatment plan for that individual, so the benefits and potential for these touch screen cadaver tables are truly manifold.
Real cadavers are and will always be necessary for budding physicians and surgeons learning their way about the human body. But a 3D system that allows medical students to navigate their way through the body’s major organs and systems at the touch of a screen is a fantastic supplement that can also spark a passion for medicine in High school students.
According to the team at ISE, the virtual cadaver program is updated every year to account for the latest medical research findings and is anticipated to last more than a decade. Software aside, this project is a testament to the power of touch screen technology and just how capable it is of fundamentally advancing our civilization.