Atlas of Anatomy, 2nd edn Edited by A. M. Gilroy, B. R. MacPherson, L. M. Ross, M. Schuenke, E. Schulte U. Schumacher. (ISBN 9781604067453, softback; £53.99.) USA: Thieme Publishers. April 2012; available from


This new edition of Gilroy's Atlas of Anatomy has made several important corrections to the first one and has many additions. It is hence slightly expanded from the original, now with 694 pages, including nearly 2500 full-colour schematic diagrams and occasional X-ray, CT or MRI scans of topographical anatomy. The authors have done a remarkable job in improving the layout and flow to the chapters, compared to the previous edition and compared to similar atlases. Each chapter starts with surface anatomy, which is then followed by the osteology, musculature, organs, vasculature, nerves and sectional anatomy. It is a layout which is easy to navigate, and logical in its organisation.

Some may find the exclusion of any real photographic anatomy a let down in an atlas of anatomy, but there is no doubt that there is a place for a schematic atlas such as this. Indeed, in my experience the majority of students prefer schematic representation to the real thing. This book is more than just an atlas, however, as it contains many key facts and summary information, in addition to the images. There are many inserts of clinical information that one would not expect from an atlas. It must be said though, that sometimes these additions seem to stroll far from what I would consider to be the key objectives. There was for example, the inclusion of the electrophysiology of the electrocardiograph (ECG), and instructions for the correct insertion of a chest drain, amongst others. However, given the importance of these things to medical practice, the authors can be forgiven. It does raise some issues though of what this atlas is supposed to be for. The facts are not useful enough to replace the need for a textbook, and do not add much to its usefulness as an atlas. Despite this, the quality of information given is exceptional, and I could not find many errors of factual content, although there are some striking omissions in the labelling in the images. Notably, the appendicular artery is not included in the illustration of the branches of the superior mesenteric artery, although it does appear in an earlier figure of the main arteries, and the appendicular vein is illustrated and labelled alongside the posterior cecal artery, which is in fact most likely to be the appendicular artery, mislabelled. The first edition was prone to major and minor errors, and these have now been corrected. I am delighted to read, for example, that the diaphragm is no longer drained via the superior intercostal vein as stated in the first edition. The superior intercostal vein is of course nearer the inlet rather than the outlet of the chest. Herein lies one of the major difficulties of producing such an atlas, because very few students of anatomy today need concern themselves with this level of detail. This atlas seems to venture far beyond the requirements of today's curriculum, but is perhaps only to be congratulated for this.

The most impressive feature is the quality of the illustrations by Markus Voll and Karl Wesker. They have managed to add depth to the pages by clever use of light and shade. Colour is also used to good effect, and the structures stand out from one another with great contrast. Another impressive quality is the use of transparency, used to highlight otherwise hidden features. Unfortunately, I do not feel the publishers have made the most of these illustrations, as often they are either ill-positioned on the page, too small or cluttered with too many unnecessary labels and leader-lines. Too often, I found myself straining to see detail, when all around the image was what seemed like acres of white space. Other pages were cluttered, with between 6 and 9 separate illustrations or diagrams, all of them too small for their purpose. The excessive use of leader lines and labels is a real issue on many of the illustrations. On one illustration of the inferior vena cava and renal veins, there are 35 leader lines pointing to 43 separate structures. Given that there are only nine tributaries directly relevant to the subject, this seems unnecessary. Indeed, it is positively confusing to the uninitiated.

As is customary these days, the atlas is accompanied by an online add-on, here called ‘ PLUS’. This is a useful addition to the textbook, providing interactivity and online assessment.

In summary, I liked this atlas and would recommend students to buy and use it. I think it has room for improvement however, and look forward to the 3rd edition.