Incorporating ultrasound imaging in graduate gross anatomy labs improves learning




Robertson, Taylor
Meyer, Kim
Kerr, Marcel
Reeves, Rustin
Handler, Emma


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Purpose: Teaching ultrasound imaging is on the rise in both undergraduate and medical anatomy education. Despite the vast literature surrounding these areas, there is little research exploring the use of ultrasound in preparatory graduate programs, which emphasize credential enhancement for professional school applications. The purpose of this study is to identify the effects of ultrasound imaging inclusion in a graduate gross anatomy course. Methods:Students in the Master of Medical Sciences program enrolled in the gross anatomy course, a prosection-based cadaver lab that included pinned cadaver stations and an ultrasound station. Using ultrasound, teaching assistants imaged live human volunteers to demonstrate anatomical structures that students previously learned at the cadaver stations. To assess learning, students were given one ultrasound image question on each lab practical exam. Students also completed a pre- and post-course survey regarding perceptions of ultrasound inclusion in the course. Student lab practical scores and final course grades from the 2019 cohort were used as a historical control. Students in the 2022 cohort’s lab practical grades, final course grades, and survey data were used in statistical analysis. Classes disrupted by Covid-19 were excluded (2020 & 2021 cohorts). Results: 205 students from the 2019 cohort and 167 students from the 2022 cohort participated in this study, with 29 students from the 2022 cohort responding to the surveys. Students in the 2022 cohort had significantly higher lab practical scores in practicals 2 (p<.001, d=.361), 3 (p<0.001, d=1.038), 4 (p<.001< d=.487) and 5 (p<.001, d= .412). Survey data revealed that there was a significant increase (p<.001, d=1.203) in learning outcome achievement from pre-survey to post-survey. Students who correctly answered the ultrasound question performed significantly better on practicals 3 (p=.005) and 4 (p=.005) than those who missed the ultrasound question. Conclusion: These findings suggest that ultrasound imaging in a gross cadaver lab is beneficial to masters' students’ learning and understanding of gross anatomy and structural relationships. The utilization of ultrasound during cadaveric anatomy courses improves learning and outcome achievement in these graduate students. This hands-on instructional procedure would likely have the same effect on other cadaveric anatomy courses such as those in health sciences and medical curricula.