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  • Alex Hattaway

How VR Is Helping Prevent the Need for Cadavers

A high-tech way to learn about the body

Virtual reality may soon do away with the need for human cadavers to train medical students in anatomy.

Case Western Reserve University’s School of Medicine was the first college to remove human corpses from the anatomy curriculum. Instead, the school partnered with Microsoft to use HoloLens virtual reality technology. The university is sharing the tech with other medical schools around the country.

“Unlike the cadaver lab, where the preserved body’s colors and textures can make it difficult to discern, say, a nerve from a blood vessel—or to see a lymph node—HoloAnatomy gives students a crystal clear 3-D map of these anatomical structures and their relationships to each other,” Mark Griswold, a professor at the CWRU School of Medicine told Lifewire in an email interview. “This provides a great foundation on which first- and second-year medical students can build other critical concepts.”

Virtual Bodies

Programmers and 3-D artists worked with the school’s anatomy faculty to develop the HoloAnatomy Software Suite, which uses advanced mixed-reality technology to show the human body in three dimensions through the Microsoft HoloLens headset. The university claims that medical students learned anatomical content twice as fast as cadaver dissection.

“The HoloAnatomy Suite represents the future of medical education,” Ilumis CEO Mark Day said in the news release. “Now universities can reduce the expensive, time-consuming task of obtaining cadavers, and students can enter a world of new possibilities where they learn faster, retain more vital information, and transcend the classroom with unprecedented collaborative potential.”

Robert L. Masson, a neurosurgeon and the CEO of the company eXpanded eXistence, which offers mixed reality for doctors, said in an email interview that VR provides significant advantages over using human cadavers in training.

“Cadavers are the traditional gold standard, and health care is always reluctant to let go of its history,” he said. “That being said, VR is making a very audacious impact on anatomical education both in medical and surgical education.”

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