It is the foundation of medical success to have a thorough understanding of human anatomy. A tradition for all first- and second-year medical students for decades, cadaver dissection is increasingly being incorporated into anatomy teaching curricula across the medical sector as a whole. Virtual reality anatomy instruction (virtual cadavers) is becoming increasingly popular, and it has already proven to be a valuable aid in the classroom. (See also: virtual reality medical training, augmented reality anatomy teaching, and virtual reality medical education.)

While many surgeons are quick to point out that virtual reality should be used in conjunction with traditional cadavers rather than as a replacement for them, human cadavers provide a unique set of issues that can be addressed (partially or totally) by employing virtual cadavers in their stead. Aiming to achieve a balance between tradition and technology, Heizenrader intends to provide prospective doctors with another another tool to aid in the saving of lives.


The number of medical students enrolling in medical school is increasing. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, enrollment for the 2019-20 academic year is 52 percent higher than it was for the 2002-03 school year, which was the previous record. That is not to include the increase in enrollments in physician assistant and nurse practitioner programmes, which are also on the rise. Most medical schools assign one cadaver to every four to six students in order to provide excellent hands-on learning opportunities. Researchers believe that less than 20,000 Americans donate their bodies to medical study and training each year in the United States, despite the fact that the federal government does not monitor whole body donations in the country. And the United States is not alone in experiencing a scarcity. According to the Journal of the Association of American Medical Colleges, just 32 percent of countries that use cadavers in their medical anatomy instruction employ only donated bodies, according to the same publication. In addition, 66 percent of countries are compelled to use unclaimed bodies in their educational initiatives.


Cadavers are an extremely expensive item for medical colleges to purchase. Cadaver labs must adhere to a complex set of government and health regulatory requirements. The expense of constructing a new cadaver lab that meets these specifications can go into the tens of millions of dollars for medical schools. In addition, the cost of purchasing new cadavers on an annual basis builds up over time. Medical schools pay for the transportation, embalming, and storage of cadavers, despite the fact that they are the product of generous donations from body donors. The cost of purchasing a whole body corpse might range between $2,000 and $3,000 per cadaver. Build-out expenditures are only a small fraction of the regular lab’s budget, and annual student licencing to VR anatomy courses are significantly less expensive than obtaining whole-body cadavers in the first place.


When the scarcity and high cost of traditional cadavers are taken into consideration, the “regeneration” feature of virtual cadavers becomes an important consideration in the decision to incorporate technology into the anatomy education process. When working with a human cadaver, it can take hours to remove the overlaying tissue from a structure. A simple slip or erroneous cut can result in the destruction of an organ or system, which will impede the education of all students who are reliant on that cadaver to learn the subject matter in question. A virtual cadaver makes it simple to correct mistakes and prevent wasting valuable time and resources on repetitive tasks. When the fear of making a mistake is removed from the learning process, students are more likely to spend more time exploring and gaining new knowledge and skills.