Gray’s Anatomy for Students 4th Edition
What is anatomy?
Anatomy includes those structures that can be seen grossly (without the aid of magnification) and microscopically (with the aid of magnification). Typically, when used by itself, the term anatomy tends to mean gross or macroscopic anatomy—that is, the study of structures that can be seen without using a microscopic. Microscopic anatomy, also called histology, is the study of cells and tissues using a microscope.
Anatomy forms the basis for the practice of medicine.
Anatomy leads the physician toward an understanding of a patient’s disease, whether he or she is carrying out a physical examination or using the most advanced imaging techniques. Anatomy is also important for dentists, chiropractors, physical therapists, and all others involved in any aspect of patient treatment that begins with an analysis of clinical signs. The ability to interpret a clinical observation correctly is therefore the endpoint of a sound anatomical understanding.
Observation and visualization are the primary techniques a student should use to learn anatomy. Anatomy is much more than just memorization of lists of names. Although the language of anatomy is important, the network of information needed to visualize the position of physical structures in a patient goes far beyond simple memorization. Knowing the names of the various branches of the external carotid artery is not the same as being able to visualize the course of the lingual artery from its origin in the neck to its termination in the tongue. Similarly, understanding the organization of the soft palate, how it is related to the oral and nasal cavities, and how it moves during swallowing is very different from being able to recite the names of its individual muscles and nerves. An understanding of anatomy requires an understanding of the context in which the terminology can be remembered.
How can gross anatomy be studied?
The term anatomy is derived from the Greek word temnein, meaning “to cut.” Clearly, therefore, the study of anatomy is linked, at its root, to dissection, although dissection of cadavers by students is now augmented, or even in some cases replaced, by viewing prosected (previously dissected) material and plastic models, or using computer teaching modules and other learning aids. Anatomy can be studied following either a regional or a systemic approach.
■ With a regional approach, each region of the body is studied separately and all aspects of that region are studied at the same time. For example, if the thorax is to be studied, all of its structures are examined. This includes the vasculature, the nerves, the bones, the muscles, and all other structures and organs located in the region of the body defined as the thorax. After studying this region, the other regions of the body (i.e., the abdomen, pelvis, lower limb, upper limb, back, head, and neck) are studied in a similar fashion.
■ In contrast, in a systemic approach, each system of the body is studied and followed throughout the entire body. For example, a study of the cardiovascular system looks at the heart and all of the blood vessels in the body. When this is completed, the nervous system (brain, spinal cord, and all the nerves) might be examined in detail. This approach continues for the whole body until every system, including the nervous, skeletal, muscular, gastrointestinal, respiratory, lymphatic, and reproductive systems, has been studied.
Each of these approaches has benefits and deficiencies. The regional approach works very well if the anatomy course involves cadaver dissection but falls short when it comes to understanding the continuity of an entire system throughout the body. Similarly, the systemic approach fosters an understanding of an entire system throughout the body, but it is very difficult to coordinate this directly with a cadaver dissection or to acquire sufficient detail.
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