Virtual Reality & Cardiac Anatomy: Exploring Immersive Three-Dimensional Cardiac Imaging in Undergraduate Medical Anatomy Education


Hillel Maresky 1,2 Anastasia Oikonomou 1 Noah Ditkofsky 1 Ismail Ali 1 Barbara Ballyk 3
1Medical Imaging, U of T, Department of Medical Imaging, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center, fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Canada
2Medical Imaging, U of T, Department of Diagnostic Imaging, Hospital for Sick Children, 555 University Avenue, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, Canada
3Undergraduate Medical Edication, U of T, Division of Anatomy & Department of Surgery, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto, Canada

Purpose: To assess the viability and the efficacy of virtual reality (VR) for the purposes of teaching cardiac anatomy.

Methods: 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 5 conventional cardiac anatomy questions, and 5 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.

Results: 42 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). The control subjects demonstrated no significant difference between the two quizzes (7.2 %, p = 0.91), while the variable subjects demonstrated a remarkable increase overall (28%, p <0.001). 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% higheroverall (p < 0.001).

Conclusions: Cardiac VR is an effective tool to improvecardiac anatomy skills. While cardiac anatomy may be challenging to grasp due to its complex 3-dimensional nature, VR offers an anatomically correct and immersive visual-spatialenvironment to interact three-dimensionally with the heart’s anatomy.

Hillel Maresku
Hillel Maresku