gms | German Medical Science

Research in Medical Education – Chances and Challenges International Conference

20.05. - 22.05.2009, Heidelberg

Teaching topographical anatomy using diagnostic sonography: Positive evaluation data for a new curriculum

Meeting Abstract

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  • corresponding author presenting/speaker Ralph Nawrotzki - University of Heidelberg, Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Heidelberg, Germany
  • Joachim Kirsch - University of Heidelberg, Institute of Anatomy and Cell Biology, Heidelberg, Germany

Research in Medical Education - Chances and Challenges 2009. Heidelberg, 20.-22.05.2009. Düsseldorf: German Medical Science GMS Publishing House; 2009. Doc09rmeB1

doi: 10.3205/09rme06, urn:nbn:de:0183-09rme064

Veröffentlicht: 5. Mai 2009

© 2009 Nawrotzki et al.
Dieser Artikel ist ein Open Access-Artikel und steht unter den Creative Commons Lizenzbedingungen ( Er darf vervielfältigt, verbreitet und öffentlich zugänglich gemacht werden, vorausgesetzt dass Autor und Quelle genannt werden.



Background: A sound knowledge of topographical anatomy is crucial for working in various medical disciplines. For example, knowing the topography of the abdomen is a pre-requisite for the interpretation of CT, MRI or ultrasound scans of this region. With this in mind, a new curriculum was devised at the Department of Anatomy at Heidelberg which uses sonography to teach first-year medical students in abdominal topography. We present critical steps taken towards implementation of this program and report evaluation data after two pilot courses.

Design of the curriculum: In a four-week program, 280 students learned how to carry out and interpret scans of the retroperitoneum, liver, pancreas and spleen, the right kidney and urinary bladder, and of the male and female reproductive organs. Posttraining examinations were given in these areas to determine the students’ degrees of knowledge and competency gained by the curriculum.

Critical steps: Aside from providing the infrastructure for the course, the major challenge in the implementation process was to train 28 graduate instructors. They had to know how to instruct groups of five students per week in sonography skills and in how to interpret the acquired images into abdominal topography. This goal was reached by training volunteers with a leading medical teacher in the field. However, some first-generation instructors will soon conclude their own studies and may not be available for future classes. Therefore, an in-house training program was designed to train future instructors. Other critical steps in the planning phase of the curriculum concerned the writing of a manual, the design of learning objectives and exam questions, and the process of forming a team of 28 instructors and six professors.

Evaluation results: To assess whether the program met its goals during the pilot phase, formative and summative program evaluations were performed at the end of each 4-week course. In 2007, 93% of the participants expressed high degrees of overall satisfaction with the course and a majority of the participants (73%) stated that the course had increased their knowledge in the topography of the abdomen. However, fewer students (44%) stated that the pretraining tests (schematic drawings of the images that would be taken later in the course) were helpful to gain competency in the subject. The evaluation of the 2008 course revealed similar values.

Conclusions: A new curriculum was devised at the Department of Anatomy at Heidelberg to teach first-year medical students in topographical anatomy of the abdomen using diagnostic sonography. The evaluation of the program in the pilot phase has yielded highly encouraging results.