Physicians in the University of Arizona Orthopaedic Surgery Residency recently completed a sports cadaver lab with instruction by attending surgeon Dr. Michael Feldman, director of our Sports Medicine program.
The lab focused on knee arthroscopy, a minimally invasive procedure to examine and treat problems inside the knee using small incisions and tiny cameras and tools to view the inside of the knee and perform various surgical procedures.
Arthroscopy is the preferred approach for many knee surgeries, with faster recovery times compared to more invasive procedures and a very high success rate.
The lab gave junior residents practice in the use of endoscopic instruments for diagnosing knee injuries. Senior residents built skills in procedures for injuries to the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL), one of the major ligaments in the knee joint, and the posterolateral corner (PLC), a complex region of ligaments, tendons and other soft tissues that provide stability to the knee.
Why Cadaver Labs?
While textbooks, anatomical models and computer simulations all have their merits and their respective roles in physician education, cadaver labs complement other educational strategies and resources.
Residents often use textbooks and digital resources to study anatomy and surgical techniques before applying that knowledge in the cadaver lab, an integration that enhances the overall learning experience.
Key benefits of cadaver labs in residency training include:
Anatomy education: Residents gain a deep understanding of human anatomy and the intricacies of the human body, including anatomical variations and complexities that may not be apparent in textbooks or computer simulations.
Hands-on practice and mastery: Surgical residents can practice various surgical techniques, such as suturing, dissection and complex procedures. Cadaver labs enable residents to master these procedures step by step, starting with basic techniques and progressing to more complex surgeries.
Team training: Cadaver labs serve as a space for team training and collaboration. Surgical teams can practice and refine their communication, coordination and teamwork skills in a controlled setting.
Skill assessment: Instructors use cadaver labs to assess the skills and progress of surgical residents. Constructive feedback and evaluations help residents improve their surgical techniques.
Patient safety: Practicing on cadavers gives residents opportunities to learn from mistakes without putting patients at risk. This enhances patient safety when residents eventually perform actual surgeries on real patients.
Ethical Sourcing & Conduct
The bodies and body parts used in cadaver labs come from individuals who have voluntarily chosen to donate their bodies to science after death.
These donors play a crucial role in advancing medical knowledge and training through their generous contributions. They complete consent documents, and institutions that receive these donations emphasize education and research with the highest regard for ethical, legal and respectful practices.
History of Cadaver Labs in Medicine
The earliest evidence of the scientific dissections of human cadavers dates to the early part of the 3rd century B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt, where Greek physicians made human cadaveric dissection the dominant means of learning anatomy.
The practice waned in Europe during the Middle Ages due to religious and cultural taboos, but in the 16th century, anatomists like Andreas Vesalius conducted systematic dissections and published detailed anatomical illustrations and texts.
The opening of the first official anatomical theater in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania in 1800 marks a milestone in medical education, ultimately leading to the use of cadaver labs as an integral part of U.S. medical and surgical education.