Using Virtual Dissection To Elevate Chiropractic Study

Assessing Impact of Virtual Dissection on Chiropractic Anatomy Student Performance

To measure the effectiveness of student learning with virtual dissection through Anatomage Table as opposed to anatomical models or cadavers,  faculty members at Life University worked to evaluate lecture and laboratory scores of 1st-year chiropractic anatomy students.

Evaluating Chiropractic Student Lecture & Laboratory Exams

The research was conducted using 3 separate cohorts for 3 consecutive academic years – only one group accessing to virtual dissection. Cohort 1 included students that practiced cadaver dissection, observed prosections, and utilized anatomical models and atlases. Cohort 2 mainly worked with anatomical models and atlases. Cohort 3 students studied models and had 2 hours of laboratory time per week dedicated to working with the Table.

During lab exams students were tested with either cadavers, models, or on the Table based on their cohort. Students that tested on the Table for lab exams scored an average final score of 85.1%, higher than those who were tested solely on models (81.4%) and cadavers (76.1%). The final scores averaged at 85.3%, 10.7 percentage points higher than students tested on cadavers (74.6%). On average, they tested 3.7 percentage points above those tested on models and 9 points above those tested on cadavers. For the lecture portion of the course, no significant differences were seen in lecture exam scores between the cohorts.

Effective Gross Anatomy Teaching Practices

Consistent lecture scoring suggests that regardless of the teaching method, students still achieved the necessary course objectives. Higher lab scores in the cohort that utilized the Table could be due to seeing more detail with
topography and depth of structures. Images were clear and unable to be destroyed by dissection.

With cadavers, students may have spent more time focused on getting dissection techniques accomplished and less time absorbing information. Many were reluctant to attend extra sessions because of fumes or
general discomfort. Additionally, students who primarily used models had limited tactile input. Spatial relationships were more difficult to discern and spinal nerves and vessels more difficult to trace.

Gross Anatomy Visualization With Virtual Dissection

Faculty members at Life University plan to continue with a multifaceted approach to gross anatomy instruction. Chiropractic students enjoy active, engaged learning and they easily adapted to the Table’s functionality. Students learning and testing on the Table met and exceeded the same assessment objectives as those learning with models and cadavers.


Afsharpour, S., Gonsalves, A., Hosek, R.,& Partin, E., MED, DC. (2018). Analysis of immediate student outcomes following a change in gross anatomy laboratory teaching methodology*. Journal of Chiropractic Education. doi:10.7899/jce-17-7

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