A novel 3D stereoscopic anatomy tutorial


  • Philip M. Brown,

  • Neil M. Hamilton,

  • Alan R. Denison

  • Funding: Project funded by University of Aberdeen.

  • Conflict of interest: None.

  • Ethical approval: Not required.

Corresponding author’s contact details: Philip Brown, School of Medicine and Dentistry, 3rd Floor Polwarth Building, Foresterhill, Aberdeen, AB25 2ZD, UK. E-mail: philip.brown.05@aberdeen.ac.uk


Background:  Advancement in technology is an important driver for the evolution of the medical curriculum. With continued criticism of medical students’ knowledge of anatomy, further investigation into adjuncts for anatomy teaching seems appropriate. This project sought to create an interactive 3D stereoscopic tutorial to bridge the teaching of anatomy and pathology.

Methods:  Anonymised computed tomography (CT) scans were collected of a normal aorta and a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm. These scans were rendered into 3D stereoscopic images using open-source software. These images were then annotated with interactive labels and buttons to access information on normal aortic anatomy and the clinical details of abdominal aortic aneurysms. A total of 183 first-year medical students viewed the tutorial, and 160 gave feedback (87%).

Results:  The students found the 3D system aided their understanding of anatomy and pathology (93 versus 3%), and provided an advantage when compared with current anatomy classes (93 versus 1%). The students highlighted the musculoskeletal system and cerebral vasculature as areas for future 3D visualisation. Of the responders, 96 per cent felt that the curriculum would benefit from further 3D stereoscopic anatomy/pathology tutorials.

Discussion:  This technology has the exciting potential to use the radiographic libraries in hospitals for medical education. The computer software, however, has some limitations at present. It is not able to effectively distinguish between tissues of similar densities. Furthermore, not all tissues are amenable to CT scanning of a high enough resolution for presentation. Despite these limitations, the software continues to advance and is capable of producing very high quality anatomy images.