Irish researchers create world’s first 3D anatomy guide

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Carl Jackson, SensL; Declan O'Mahoney, Tyndall National Institute; and Joe O'Keeffe, InfiLed

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12 December 2011 | 0

The world’s first 3D surface anatomy guide for medical and physiotherapy students, surgical trainees and artists has been developed in Ireland through a unique collaboration between anatomists, artists and engineers. Launched today in the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA) in Dublin, the two year project, funded by Science Foundation Ireland and the Royal College of Surgeons Ireland (RCSI), has resulted in an online 3D guide which shows the motions of muscles and the sites of structures from the surface inwards. It shows how, by using movement, colour, illustration and 3D technology, anatomists, engineers and artists can collaborate to teach the body from the outside in.

The project combined artistic representation, engineering expertise and anatomical accuracy into a four hour teaching programme and will shortly be part of the curriculum/training for medical students in Dublin, Bahrain and Kuala Lumpur. Computer-aided learning is an elegant and cost-effective solution for medical students as it gives them access to a 3D representation of the human body and helps mitigate the traditional constraints of medical education such as a lack of willing live models.

"Medical students are reluctant models, so getting one to take off his shirt to demonstrate the surface anatomy of the heart valves can be a challenge. Yet surface anatomy is the basis of clinical examination and students must learn where to listen to the heart, the markings of the liver, the sites of incisions and the movements of joints – in short the site of everything from the outside in. Artists also do not always have access to a live model either, and for them a knowledge of the underlying skeletal and muscular structure is fundamental to drawing and painting the figure.This guide allows us to teach these vital lessons in a richer and more engaging manner and on a more frequent basis," said Prof. Clive Lee, Head of the Department of Anatomy, Royal College of Surgeons RCSI and Honorary Professor of Anatomy at the RHA.

The project was a partnership between anatomists Dr Valerie Morris and Prof Clive Lee from the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI), engineers David Corrigan and Academy Award winner Anil Kokaram from Trinity College (TCD) and artists Mick O’Dea RHA and Una Sealy ARHA from the Royal Hibernian Academy (RHA).

The guide is about to be launched for surgical trainees in RCSI and in the College of Surgeons of East, Central and Southern Africa. In 2012, it will be used as the basis for teaching anatomy to artists in the RHA school.

Anil Kokaram and Clive Lee had previously worked together on an on-line Dissection Guide, and applied to SFI for a grant to extend this to Surface Anatomy and utilise stereo-3D technology. The grant application was successful and engineer David Corrigan from TCD and medical doctor Valerie Morris from RCSI came on board to form a team to script, shoot and edit the Guide. Mick O’Dea made the RHA studios available for the shoot and, together with Una Sealy, joined in the editing process to ensure that the Guide would be applicable to artists as well as to medical and physiotherapy students and surgical trainees.

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