Harnessing Augmented Reality and CT to Teach First-Year Medical Students Head and Neck Anatomy

Joanna K. Weeks, Jina Pakpoor, Brian J. Park, Nicole J. Robinson, Neal A. Rubinstein, Stephen M. Prouty, Arun C. Nachiappan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


Rationale and Objectives: Three-dimensional (3D) visualization has been shown to benefit new generations of medical students and physicians-in-training in a variety of contexts. However, there is limited research directly comparing student performance after using 3D tools to those using two-dimensional (2D) screens. Materials and Methods: A CT was performed on a donated cadaver and a 3D CT hologram was created. A total of 30 first-year medical students were randomly assigned into two groups to review head and neck anatomy in a teaching session that incorporated CT. The first group used an augmented reality headset, while the second group used a laptop screen. The students were administered a five-question anatomy test before and after the session. Two-tailed t-tests were used for statistical comparison of pretest and posttest performance within and between groups. A feedback survey was distributed for qualitative data. Results: Pretest vs. posttest comparison of average percentage of questions answered correctly demonstrated both groups showing significant in-group improvement (p < 0.05), from 59% to 95% in the augmented reality group, and from 57% to 80% in the screen group. Between-group analysis indicated that posttest performance was significantly better in the augmented reality group (p = 0.022, effect size = 0.73). Conclusion: Immersive 3D visualization has the potential to improve short-term anatomic recall in the head and neck compared to traditional 2D screen-based review, as well as engage millennial learners to learn better in anatomy laboratory. Our findings may reflect additional benefit gained from the stereoscopic depth cues present in augmented reality-based visualization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)871-876
Number of pages6
JournalAcademic radiology
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • 3D visualization
  • Augmented reality
  • Medical education
  • Mixed reality
  • Near-peer
  • Technology in education

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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