Healthcare is being hampered because of the public’s poor basic understanding of anatomy, according to researchers, whose findings suggest UK clinicians need to explain things thoroughly to patients and assume a low level of knowledge unless otherwise indicated.
Health screening campaigns that target a specific organ may lack effectiveness if the public have a poor knowledge of anatomy, added the researchers from Lancaster University.
“Evidence points towards a growing need for anatomy education to the wider public2
Middle-aged non-graduates scored better than young graduates in an anatomical quiz given to the public by members of the university’s medical school.
The 63 volunteer members of the public agreed to place various organs and body parts on a blank template of the human body.
These included the brain, cornea, lungs, liver, diaphragm, heart, stomach, appendix, bladder, kidneys, pancreas, gallbladder, spleen, adrenals, thyroid, hamstrings, biceps, triceps, quadriceps, cruciate ligament and Achilles tendon.
These terms were chosen based on mentions in everyday life such as keeping fit, sports injuries, TV shows and online searches for abdominal pain, said the study authors in the journal Anatomical Sciences Education.
The only organ which 100% of people answered correctly was the brain. The biceps muscle and the cornea were the next most correctly answered structures.
The organs that the public knew least about were the adrenal glands which less than 15% of people could identify and many thought mistakenly were in the neck.
Men scored higher than women in identifying muscles but not internal organs, said the researchers, though graduates did not score better than non-graduates.
In addition, older people scored higher than young people, peaking in the 40-49 age group, which may be because this is when people begin visiting the doctor more often, suggested the authors.
However, seemingly in contrast to this theory, people who had visited a healthcare professional prior to the quiz fared no better than those who had not.
As might be expected, people working in any health-related job scored significantly higher than people in other jobs.
“Public knowledge of the anatomical ’self’ is lacking and evidence points towards a growing need for anatomy education to the wider public,” stated the researchers.
Lead study author Dr Adam Taylor said: “Whilst many of the public do not have or need formal anatomical knowledge, it is beneficial in monitoring and explaining their own health.”
Dr Taylor said the quiz also revealed the public’s eagerness to learn anatomy, despite their limited knowledge of the human body.