• gross anatomy education;
  • cardiac anatomy;
  • ultrasound education;
  • prosection;
  • gross anatomy laboratory;
  • cadaver anatomy;
  • contextual learning;
  • medical education


This study compared the efficacy of two cardiac anatomy teaching modalities, ultrasound imaging and cadaveric prosections, for learning cardiac gross anatomy. One hundred and eight first-year medical students participated. Two weeks prior to the teaching intervention, students completed a pretest to assess their prior knowledge and to ensure that groups were equally randomized. Students, divided into pre-existing teaching groups, were assigned to one of two conditions; “cadaver” or “ultrasound.” Those in the cadaver group received teaching on the heart using prosections, whereas the ultrasound group received teaching using live ultrasound images of the heart. Immediately after teaching, students sat a post-test. Both teaching modalities increased students' test scores by similar amounts but no significant difference was found between the two conditions, suggesting that both prosections and ultrasound are equally effective methods for teaching gross anatomy of the heart. Our data support the inclusion of either cadaveric teaching or living anatomy using ultrasound within the undergraduate anatomy curriculum, and further work is needed to compare the additive effect of the two modalities. Anat Sci Educ. © 2011 American Association of Anatomists.