Intended for healthcare professionals

Career Focus

Learning anatomy online

BMJ 2007; 335 doi: (Published 15 December 2007) Cite this as: BMJ 2007;335:s233
  1. Natalie Blencowe, Specialty trainee, year (natalieblencowe{at}
  1. General Surgery, Bristol

For many doctors, learning anatomy does not stop in the dissection room in medical school. Anatomy constitutes a large part of both written and oral sections of the examination for membership of the Royal College of Surgeons. So if you want to try an alternative to a textbook why not consider going online? These websites are free, and you do not need to register.

This is the web version of a concise textbook now in its third edition. It's easy to navigate and makes anatomy revision manageable by presenting information in a concise and coherent format. Unlike most textbooks, structures such as blood vessels and nerves are displayed in their entirety instead of regionally. Lots of additional features are included, such as podcasts on individual topics, a CD-ROM, PowerPoint lectures, a question bank, and even a printable paper model of the inguinal canal.

This website again divides the anatomy into sections (head and neck, abdomen, and so on) and then subsections. At the bottom of every subsection is a reference to the relevant pages in both Grant's and Netter's anatomy atlases. The cadaveric illustrations are fantastic, although the accompanying text is sometimes heavy going. Plenty of self assessment questions are provided, with helpful feedback including a link to the subsection where the correct answer can be found.

If you want detailed information on a specific anatomical area, this is the website for you. Based on the 20th edition of Gray's Anatomy, this website has a comprehensive index and is easy to navigate. The illustrations are of superb quality and are enlargeable. Dedicated sections on embryology and surface anatomy are included. However, there are no self test questions and the text is extremely detailed, making this website more useful for reference purposes rather than revision.

This is an extensive collection of anatomical images and makes an excellent reference tool. As well as conventional line drawings of each section of the body, there are cross sectional images, microanatomy slides, and a list of links to various digital image banks. The index is easy to follow and the “search” facility is also useful. A clinical section includes relevant anatomy for procedures such as chest drain insertion and amputation. However, there is no accompanying text, and the labelling of the pictures is often difficult to read. I found this website a useful companion to the other sites listed above.

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