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Choice of Full Dissection vs. Dissection+Prosection?


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Aug 11, 2008
  1. Medical Student
    Which would you pick?

    My school's required curriculum for anatomy lab is 1/3rd dissection and 2/3rds prosection. Each body is assigned to 9 students. You work in groups of 3 and are assigned 1/3rd of the body to dissect. So, you work with 3 ppl to dissect 1/3rd of the body, and then the other 2 groups dissect the remaining 2/3rds. The prosection is based on their dissections. Even though you don't dissect the other 2/3rds yourself/with your group, you still can come in as much as you want and probe through the bodies as you're memorizing structures.

    Or, you can apply to be on the cadaver team (sounds like you'll make it if you really want it). I think you also work in groups on the cadaver team but you do every dissection. So, it's basically full dissection but in groups. It's more or less an extra 5 afternoons per month for 3 months, though. Sound worth it?

    If I for sure knew I wanted to do surgery, then I'd definitely sign up for cadaver team. Up until now, I had no desire to do surgery, but I also don't have any exposure to the field. Would you sign up in my shoes? If your school offered either option, which would you choose?
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    Jolie South

    is invoking Domo. . .
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    1. Attending Physician
      Your 3rd year surgery rotation will have more to do with your future in surgery than whether you dissected a cadaver in Anatomy.

      Yea, if you've ever seen a live person on the table, you know that it looks nothing like a cadaver. Cadaver dissection is not remotely comparable to what happens in surgery.
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      Full Member
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      Aug 5, 2009
      Never Neverland
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        a professor told me she was a big proponent of dissection because you get more of a feel of where things are located vs just what they're called. (how far you have to dig, how high/low it is)

        The above points trump this in my mind. The problem with dissection is you spend 1/2-2/3 of a lab period digging out fat/fascia, and then naming the stuff. Prosection would allow you to walk in and name everything, and review at will in a lab period.


        i'm goin' to Kathmandu...
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        Oct 21, 2008
        Townsville, USA
        1. Attending Physician
          Yea, if you've ever seen a live person on the table, you know that it looks nothing like a cadaver. Cadaver dissection is not remotely comparable to what happens in surgery.

          But the faculty told us that people interested in surgery always love dissection :rolleyes:

          OP, more prosections is more better.


          Full Member
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          Oct 18, 2009
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            Dissection is a huge time suck! At my school we're required to dissect for 2 weeks each semester (2 days per week and you teach the rest of the group 1 day during that week). I really appreciate not having to waste hours in the lab digging through fascia. However, I'm definitely a visual person. Listening to my group members teach me was by and large a waste of time. It went in one ear and out the other. Either way, if you want to do well you have to put in time in the lab...whether you want that time to consist of digging through fascia THEN studying or just studying what is already dissected is up to you. I don't think that the "knowledge" gained by actually dissecting is worth the time spent doing it.

            Luckily, I was fortunate enough to be assigned to areas that I'm really interested in so I enjoyed :rolleyes: what I was dissecting...however I would've enjoyed those 4.5 hours before my biochem exam just as well.

            I think it also depends on how your school tests...we are not "ID this structure"...80% of our practical questions are secondary/tertiary.

            I don't think I would've done any better on our practical had I participated in all of the dissections. If you want to do well you have to put in the time, which requires studying all of the bodies in the lab not just yours. I rather put in 1/4 of the time studying what I need to know than the added time associated with locating it then studying.


            Full Member
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            Jul 25, 2008
            1. Attending Physician
              Yeah I think dissection is a waste of time.. honestly when we have gross lab we all go in, joke around and b.s. about the weekend and half-as$ follow the directions to get the dissection done.. then we leave and do other work related to a test coming up. When a gross test rolls around, then and only then do I go back into the lab and actually try and memorize structures/really isolate and dissect out some of the nerves. Very low yield.


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              Jul 6, 2006
              1. Medical Student
                I'd go with 2/3prosections, I hated dissection; too much time wasted digging through fat/fascia (and not learning anything from it).

                Also, I'm not so sure dissecting helps surgery skills any.

                Personally agree with this.

                My school had 4 people per cadaver and we did everything ourselves (just finished our 7 week anatomy course; yes, everything in 7 weeks). There were days that I spent 2+ hours mindlessly picking through fat just to get to the structures we were hoping to find.

                I got the most out of going back to the cadaver AFTER dissection was completed, but even then I didn't get a whole lot from it. I learned far more from CT scans of our cadaver and Netter's.

                Some of my classmates would disagree with me, but this was my take on it. Also, there are plenty of current surgeons out there who did not LOVE doing dissection work. I don't know that there are many that LOATHED it, but to each his/her own.


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                1. Medical Student
                  I think a dissection-only format would be useless for many students.

                  I am not a practical, "hands-on" learner. When I am digging for structures my mind is focused on only one thing: digging for the structure. I would probably spend 1-2 hours every day in lab learning nothing. You might guess lab wasn't the most fun part of my life during anatomy:).

                  That said, a lot of my peers say dissection was the best possible way they could've learned anatomy. It's kinda a love it or hate it type thing, depending on personality/learning style.

                  I also think, regardless of alternative explanations for it, dissection remains a "rite of passage" for medical students. Whether they say it or not, part of the experience exists to desensitize you to the human body in a dramatic way. I'm not sure what to make of this yet, and whether or not it is a necessary part of medical education.


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                  Jan 10, 2010
                  1. Attending Physician
                    I'm going to go against the grain and say Dissection is more helpful. Not for surgical skills etc, but because once you've spent the time peeling through fascia and finding everything and relating it to everything else and then teaching it to everyone coming through "just peeking around," You know it cold. The guys that came in and just tried to look at the bodies put in less time, but knew a hell of a lot less.

                    Honestly, if you're going to prosect, grab a copy of Rohan's and spend your time with that. Rohan atlas will be hell of a lot better prosection than your classmates

                    Learning anatomy in Netters + digging around and finding everything on the cadaver + reviewing in Rohan's = knowing anatomy cold.

                    Dr McSexy

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                    Feb 9, 2009
                    1. Resident [Any Field]
                      Eh, I'll be in the minority on this list.

                      We do a full dissection (4 person per cadaver). It has its pro and cons.

                      Cons would be that it can get mindless in many parts, there are days that you just don't want to be there, and there are times where you don't feel like you know anything that you are actually finding.

                      Pros: For me, so far, it's been that it's one of the few classes (if not the only) that I actually learn something while I'm in it. Others here have said it's low yield, but for me, I felt like it was pretty high yield. Once we dissected the structure, I felt like I knew it pretty well and I really only needed to look at another body just to see the variances since every body looks different and you never know what body is going to be tagged out of the 50 or so bodies. And there's a sense of accomplishment when you actually find the structure yourself.

                      Also, I would think it would depend on the school. But we are tested on some structures that are not outlined within an atlas. So, actually doing the dissection helps with that. With some things, you could pretty much study an atlas and walk into the practical and know it. FWIW, I never opened up my atlas for our Head&Neck block outside of gross lab. (Not to mention that some atlases *cough* Rohen's *cough* are so awesomely dissected that you'll never see it like that in lab)

                      Also I felt like gross lab was a good time to get to know many of your classmates.

                      Suffice it to say, I've enjoyed the full dissection. I didn't really find it a time sink. I still have lots of free time.

                      Edit to add:

                      Gilroy FTW! (I have a certain dislike for Rohen and Netter)


                      Full Member
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                      Nov 20, 2009
                      1. Attending Physician
                        I hate dissecting. For me, it's a real waste of time. Luckily 2 of my tank-mates just looooove to dissect. I just try to stay out of their way. It's possible that you'll enjoy dissecting yourself, but as far as I can tell, most people don't.


                        im so cereal right now
                        Jun 14, 2009
                        1. Medical Student
                          i agree with the people that think dissections are valuable. now that anatomy is over for me, i can look back with a bigger perspective. sure, sometimes it sucked to have to be in lab like on afriday night, but as i look back it was totally worth it and for those of us who don't go into surgery, its a once in a lifetime opportunity! its so unfortunate to me that some students had very little respect and found little value in a complete human body generously donated to us. i mean we're so not worthy to take care of these cadavers, but we get to do it anyway.

                          also its true that without dissection you can't know anatomy cold. looking at prosections and rohens will make it so that you try to learn stuff just for the exam. but once the exam's over you'll forget. and when the course ends what did you really get out of it? on the other hand if you spent the time to dissect through every part of the body (and comparing to other dissections after your firsthand journey through the body part youre looking at) you will not forget the important spacial relationships once the exams are over. you'll probably have that experience and much of the knowledge for the rest of your life. and even with that, you still dont know everything... so its much better to get more out of anatomy in the long run. the people that didn't get anything out of dissections were usually the people that didn't prepare for the dissection assignments beforehand.

                          third, don't you guys have to learn some of the important fascia?? how can you appreciate those if you didnt cut through them/separate them and separate them from organs or muscles? a lot of those things will not be seen in prosections that removed the fascia to see underlying structures.

                          also, dealing with the fat is a thing of experience.. at some point you learn how to get rid of it quickly.. or ask your anatomy instructor to teach you the fast ways to get through them. granted, in some parts of the body its just plain impossible to get to things through a lot of fat.. but overall the experience is worth it. its such a rare privelege and i would take advantage of it! i say this especially in RETROSPECT.

                          also this especially applies to highly visual learners.. or artistic people.. or even if you have trouble appreciating things spatially and putting them all together.
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