How Cadavers are Changing Medical Outcomes

Human tissue vs. animal tissue

How Cadavers are Changing Medical Outcomes

Every year, hundreds of thousands of animals are bred and euthanized to be used for medical research and training purposes.  Additionally, hundreds of thousands of dollars are spent on investing in simulators to help recreate a surgery setting.  However, the question remains, why are we using animals and simulators to improve surgical outcomes when human tissue is readily accessible and available?

Human tissue has an incredible advantage versus animal tissue and simulation in that it is directly relevant to anatomical structures and physiology.  Furthermore, human tissue allows researchers the ability to closely mirror what they’ll see in live patients, by knowing and sometimes choosing their donor’s medical/social history.

Recently, there have been a number of articles surrounding surgery achievements in the news. Many of us have heard the story about the remarkable face transplant surgery performed at NYU by Dr. Eduardo Rodriguez and his team, which gave a Mississippi firefighter a new life. The firefighter received a new face, scalp, ears and ear canals, and selected portions of bone from the chin, cheeks, and entire nose. He also received new eyelids and the muscles that control blinking, as he was previously unable to close his eyes completely. It was the most extensive facial transplant ever done or attempted.

Or, what about the story of the young boy who was the first child in the US to receive a bilateral hand transplant that was performed at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia? These advancements in surgery are groundbreaking and require hours upon hours of research and training.  It is also known that a major part of their success had to do with repeated practice on cadavers.

Dr. James Grotting, President of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), said his participation in cadaveric workshops were some of the most important moments in his career. Dr. Grotting states, “Being able to do a run through of a procedure on a cadaver, the amount of learning that takes place is phenomenal.  It has a direct impact on patient safety.”

Advances in the medical industry would not be what they are today without training on fresh, human cadavers. Simulation and animal models have been beneficial and have certainly played a part in improving surgical outcomes, but many believe they are incomparable to the dissection of fresh tissue.



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