A new dynamic 3D virtual methodology for teaching the mechanics of atrial septation as seen in the human heart



Learning embryology remains difficult, since it requires understanding of many complex phenomena. The temporal evolution of developmental events has classically been illustrated using cartoons, which create difficulty in linking spatial and temporal aspects, such correlation being the keystone of descriptive embryology. We synthesized the bibliographic data from recent studies of atrial septal development. On the basis of this synthesis, consensus on the stages of atrial septation as seen in the human heart has been reached by a group of experts in cardiac embryology and pediatric cardiology. This has permitted the preparation of three-dimensional (3D) computer graphic objects for the anatomical components involved in the different stages of normal human atrial septation. We have provided a virtual guide to the process of normal atrial septation, the animation providing an appreciation of the temporal and morphologic events necessary to separate the systemic and pulmonary venous returns. We have shown that our animations of normal human atrial septation increase significantly the teaching of the complex developmental processes involved, and provide a new dynamic for the process of learning. Anat Sci Ed 2:69–77, 2009. © 2009 American Association of Anatomists.