Shi C, Zhouxian P, Yanyan W, Zhaoqi G, Man L, Ze L, Huijuan Z, Yong Y, Wuyang S, Zhen S, Jun Z, Hui P. The role of three-dimensional printed models of skull in anatomy education: a randomized controlled trail. Scientific Report


Three-dimensional (3D) printed models represent educational tools of high quality compared with traditional teaching aids. Colored skull models were produced by 3D printing technology. A randomized controlled trial (RCT) was conducted to compare the learning efficiency of 3D printed skulls with that of cadaveric skulls and atlas. Seventy-nine medical students, who never studied anatomy, were randomized into three groups by drawing lots, using 3D printed skulls, cadaveric skulls, and atlas, respectively, to study the anatomical structures in skull through an introductory lecture and small group discussions. All students completed identical tests, which composed of a theory test and a lab test, before and after a lecture. Pre-test scores showed no differences between the three groups. In post-test, the 3D group was better than the other two groups in total score (cadaver: 29.5 [IQR: 25–33], 3D: 31.5 [IQR: 29–36], atlas: 27.75 [IQR: 24.125–32]; p = 0.044) and scores of lab test (cadaver: 14 [IQR: 10.5–18], 3D: 16.5 [IQR: 14.375–21.625], atlas: 14.5 [IQR: 10–18.125]; p = 0.049). Scores involving theory test, however, showed no difference between the three groups. In this RCT, an inexpensive, precise and rapidly-produced skull model had advantages in assisting anatomy study, especially in structure recognition, compared with traditional education materials.

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