Delta students learning hands-on with virtual anatomy table
Swiping her finger across the screen, Delta College surgical Technology Program Coordinator Rebecca Hall made an incision into a virtual cadaver, quickly dissecting it from head to toe.
Surgical tech student Tracie Christina of Mount Pleasant was impressed.
“This is going to be fun,” she said. “I cannot wait to use this.”
Hall was demonstrating the Anatomage Table, a tablet-like virtual dissection table that lets users navigate through several hundred detailed, life-size, three-dimensional images of a human body.
The table takes students directly into the human body, where they can identify the various systems down to each bone, muscle, nerve, blood vessel and more. Each is labeled on the table. However, those names don’t stay static. When a user rotates the cadaver, the labels change according to the current view. It can render limitless views of the human body in exquisite detail.
“I am a hands-on learner,” Christina said. “Being able to visualize the anatomical parts on different planes and move it all around will help me to see and get a better grasp of the part.”
Delta was the first college or university in Michigan to purchase the Anatomage table, joining prestigious hospitals and universities around the world to bring this new technology for learning to their students.
Students believe they will learn anatomy better and faster because staring at a two-dimensional illustration in a textbook or handling a plastic model doesn’t compare to the involvement into deep tissues that this table provides.
“The table helps to bring all of the information that we read in a textbook into perspective, said Bay City student Kate Reinhardt. “Not only do we read about what the structures do, we get to see in real life the actual structures which helps tie it all together.”
The table, which measures 81 inches long and 22 inches wide, has two side-by-side, high-resolution touchscreens, which allow students and faculty to view a cadaver, rotate it 360 degrees in any direction and make cuts along any plane. Then, with a single slide of the finger, the entire body can instantly be restored.
Lori Kloc, Delta’s Simulation Specialist and Learning Facilitator, said while cadavers only allow students to remove layers or systems; the Anatomage lets you to put it all back.
“Students not only see what the human body looks like as we peel away layers and systems,” said Kloc, “but we also have the ability to isolate and manipulate one thing. We can look at it from all directions.”
Cadavers don’t usually include a detailed pathology report. However, Hall shared the reasons why the man, whose body is one of those represented on the table, died. But she won’t necessarily give those details to her class, instead turning it into a teaching moment.
“Some of his systems aren’t picture perfect,” Hall said. “We can go in and look at perfect versus pathology. We can go into the 3D models and look at what is normal and they can do a side-by-side comparison.”
While the Anatomage Table can house hundreds of CT scans, MRI images and X-Rays, instructors also have the ability to upload their own scans, creating a virtual model that students can spin to view from all three dimensions. Images can also be shown in 4D, incorporating time, such as an animated CT scan of the muscle tissue of a beating heart.
The table will change the way students are tested, too. Previously, faculty would lie out a bunch of bones and students would walk around identifying them. It would be labor and time intensive.
“Instructors can put virtual pins on the body part they want named,” Kloc said. “Then, they can set the table to quiz mode, which removes the labels and locks out a student from manipulating the table in any way except for rotating images for a better view.”
One of the things Hall loves most about the Anatomage Table is that she can drive home a point with visuals that support the theories shown in textbooks.
“We talked about surgical positioning and how the arms are always less than 90 degrees (from the body) because of the brachial plexus,” Hall said. “We’ve always told students that, but now I can bring them here and say look at all these nerves that run underneath your arm. So, if you hyperextend it for a long period of time, you can see the nerve damage that you would be causing.”
The Anatomage table will benefit students in Health & Wellness programs such as Surgical Technology, Nursing, Radiography, Sonography, Physical Therapist Assistant and Respiratory Care by allowing them to take an active role in learning human anatomy, physiology and pathologies related to their field of study.
Because nearly all health students will benefit from the Anatomage Table, Hall plans to share the room so that other classes can use the table.
“I think that it’s going to give our students a step up in visualizing anatomy and physiology,” Kloc said. “This takes it to a whole different level.”