Living anatomy in the 21st century: How far can we go?

Ganguly PK, Chan LK. December 2008. Living anatomy in the 21st century: How far can we go? South East Asian Journal of Medical Education 2(2):52-57.


Living anatomy, defined as the anatomy revealed on living humans, is gaining importance in modern anatomy education, and has even been considered to replace cadaver-based anatomy study. We discussed the modalities through which living anatomy can be studied and explore the feasibility of using them to replace cadaver-based anatomy. We believe that the study of anatomy via the three main modalities of living anatomy, namely, surface anatomy, medical imaging and surgical procedures, rely on a foundation of sound knowledge of the three-dimensional anatomy.

While a cadaver is still the best study material for the construction of a three-dimensional image of human anatomy, considering the pressure to reduce the hours geared towards anatomy education, education in anatomy in 21st century must be revolutionized to utilize the state-of–the-art modalities to formulate a contemporary anatomy course. Such modalities allow students to carry on self –directed learning, leading to a positive outcome in anatomy education. The problem arises if we have to incorporate more living anatomy, the time necessary for dissection needs to be minimized or compromised. We sincerely believe that the time has come to address this issue in the anatomy curriculum.