Journal: Clinical Anatomy Author: Maresky HS, Oikonomou A, Ali I, Ditkofsky N, Pakkal M, Ballyk B. Publication Date: Oct 2018 Volume Number: epub
Cardiac anatomy can be challenging to grasp due to its complex three‐dimensional nature and remains one of the most challenging topics to teach. In light of some exciting technological advances in the field of virtual reality (VR), we sought to test the viability and the assess efficacy of this computer‐generated model for the purposes of teaching cardiac anatomy.

Prior to learning cardiac anatomy, first year undergraduate medical students participated in an anatomically‐correct VR simulation of the heart. Students were randomly distributed into control and variable groups. Each student completed a pre‐intervention quiz, consisting of ten multiple choice questions with five conventional cardiac anatomy questions, and five visual‐spatial (VS) questions. The control group continued to independent study, while the variable group subjects were exposed to a thirty‐minute immersive cardiac VR experience. At the end of the intervention, both groups underwent a separate post‐intervention ten‐question quiz.

Forty‐two students participated in the cardiac VR experiment, separated into 14 control and 28 variable subjects. They scored 50.9% on average on the pre‐intervention quiz (SD=16.5), and 70.2% on the post‐intervention quiz (SD=18.7.) Compared to the control group, the students exposed to VR scored 21.4% higher in conventional content (p=0.004), 26.4% higher in VS content (p<0.001), and 23.9% higher overall (p<0.001.)

VR offers an anatomically correct and immersive visual‐spatial environment that permits learner to interact three‐dimensionally with the heart's anatomy. This study demonstrates the viability and the effectiveness of VR in teaching cardiac anatomy.