Lim K, Loo Z, Goldie S, Adams J, McMenamin P. Use of 3D printed models in medical education: A randomized control trial comparing 3D prints versus cadaveric materials for learning external cardiac anatomy . Anatomical Sciences Education. 2015,9(3):213-221


Three‐dimensional (3D) printing is an emerging technology capable of readily producing accurate anatomical models, however, evidence for the use of 3D prints in medical education remains limited. A study was performed to assess their effectiveness against cadaveric materials for learning external cardiac anatomy. A double blind randomized controlled trial was undertaken on undergraduate medical students without prior formal cardiac anatomy teaching. Following a pre‐test examining baseline external cardiac anatomy knowledge, participants were randomly assigned to three groups who underwent self‐directed learning sessions using either cadaveric materials, 3D prints, or a combination of cadaveric materials/3D prints (combined materials). Participants were then subjected to a post‐test written by a third party. Fifty‐two participants completed the trial; 18 using cadaveric materials, 16 using 3D models, and 18 using combined materials. Age and time since completion of high school were equally distributed between groups. Pre‐test scores were not significantly different (P = 0.231), however, post‐test scores were significantly higher for 3D prints group compared to the cadaveric materials or combined materials groups (mean of 60.83% vs. 44.81% and 44.62%, P = 0.010, adjusted P = 0.012). A significant improvement in test scores was detected for the 3D prints group (P = 0.003) but not for the other two groups. The finding of this pilot study suggests that use of 3D prints do not disadvantage students relative to cadaveric materials; maximally, results suggest that 3D may confer certain benefits to anatomy learning and supports their use and ongoing evaluation as supplements to cadaver‐based curriculums.

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