Virtual Anatomy: Armstrong students can now explore the human body using new advanced medical technology


Armstrong’s College of Health Professions is taking hands-on learning to another level: the third dimension. With the recent acquisition of two pieces of highly advanced medical equipment, classrooms across campus are now learning about the human body in ways that were once possible only inside of an operating room.

View photos of the Anatomage Table!

This summer, Armstrong became the first school in the state of Georgia to purchase Anatomage, an interactive virtual anatomy dissection table. To date, the Anatomage Table is the most technologically advanced anatomy visualization system for anatomy education and is being adopted by many of the world’s leading medical schools and institutions.

“It’s going to allow us to teach everything below the skin in new and creative ways,” says Dr. Anne Thompson, interim dean of Armstrong’s College of Health Professions.

The digital anatomy table features a visualization screen that spans 81 inches long and 22 inches wide, and has been featured in the TEDTalks Conference, PBS, Fuji TV and numerous journals for its innovative approach to anatomy education.

“It looks like a giant iPad and, like any touch screen device, we can drag a finger across it and do sectional anatomy,” explains Thompson.

Developed at Stanford University, the Anatomage Table has an interactive display system using an infrared touch center shooting light rays that sense where the user is touching. The table simulates an operation table and allows for full body, three-dimensional renderings. This equipment is the only virtual system that can display human gross anatomy in real life size. The interactive display system strengthens Armstrong’s collaborative learning environment, as several students may gather around the table or connect the device to a projector for a greater depth of view.

Users interact with the displays by flipping them and rotating them or by using a scalpel tool to “dissect” and reveal certain areas of the body. Students can remove layers such as skin and muscle tissue to reveal bone and organ renderings. The table even allows for users to load their own images from CT scans and radiographs. The data used to create the models come from real patient scans or cadavers, which makes the simulations highly accurate.

“The possibility here for teaching students in health professions, science and technology, forensics in criminal justice, neuroanatomy in the College of Health Professions and more is just endless,” says Thompson. “The ability to teach across disciplines is just phenomenal.”

Amazingly, the Anatomage Table is not the only piece of technology on campus with advanced, one-of-a-kind capabilities. In the spring of 2013, Armstrong became the only school in the region to purchase the Simbionix ANGIO Mentor, a simulation system that provides hands-on experience with procedures performed under fluoroscopy in the cath lab, an interventional radiology suite or an operating room. All procedures are conducted in a simulated, virtual reality environment.

View photos of the Simbionix ANGIO Mentor!

“This device allows you to utilize the device as a patient and insert different wires, catheters and stents, perform diagnostic procedures on patients, deploy stents, and more,” explains Esma Campbell, Armstrong’s Cardiovascular Interventional Science program coordinator.

The system has been featured on the award winning, medical drama television series, Grey’s Anatomy, as well as the syndicated daily talk show, The Doctors, for its innovative technology enabling realistic visualization of the anatomy and instrument activity.

“It allows a student to simulate finding a problem and then correcting it, all while using the same equipment that would be available as if it were really happening in a real environment,” says Campbell. “Students can experience these things in the classroom, and make mistakes in a safe, simulated setting which, in turn, creates a more patient safety, focused environment.”

The Angio Mentor uses unique technology combined with a high-end haptic system for visual and tactile feedback, which realistically mimics the look and feel of endovascular interventions. The computer, which connects to the system, shows the patient as if he or she is on a medical table. A wire is put through the device, which acts as the human body, and displays images on a computer screen. A “live” patient electrocardiogram even simulates the patient’s blood pressure, which must be monitored during real life procedures.

“Our students are getting exposure on the same equipment as physicians who are practicing in real hospitals,” explains Campbell.

For both the Anatomage Table and The Angio Mentor, the roles these devices play in the classrooms at Armstrong are significant. Both pieces of technology offer students the opportunity to simulate hands-on experience in a controlled lab setting to advance their education and to make them more comfortable in real life scenarios. This cutting-edge technology not only underscores Armstrong’s status as a hub of healthcare education in Georgia, but also advances the future of our Health Professions graduates.