Human Sectional Anatomy Atlas of Body Sections, CT and MRI Images, Fourth Edition
The study of sectional anatomy of the human body goes back to the earliest days of systematic topographical anatomy. The beautiful drawings of the sagittal sections of the male and female trunk and of the pregnant uterus by Leonardo da Vinci (1452–1519) are well known. Among his figures, which were based on some 30 dissections, are a number of transverse sections of the lower limb. These constitute the first known examples of the use of cross-sections for the study of gross anatomy and anticipate modern technique by several hundred years. In the absence of hardening reagents or methods of freezing, sectional anatomy was used seldom by Leonardo (O’Malley and Saunders, 1952). Andreas Vesalius pictured transverse sections of the brain in his Fabrica published in 1543 and in the seventeenth century portrayals of sections of various parts of the body, including the brain, eye and the genitalia, were made by Vidius, Bartholin, de Graaf and others. Drawings of sagittal section anatomy were used to illustrate surgical works in the eighteenth century, for example those of Antonio Scarpa of Pavia and Peter Camper of Leyden. William Smellie, one of the fathers of British midwifery, published his magnificent Anatomical Tables in 1754, mostly drawn by Riemsdyk, which comprised mainly sagittal sections; William Hunter’s illustrations of the human gravid uterus are also well known.
The obstacle to detailed sectional anatomical studies was, of course, the problem of fixation of tissues during the cutting process. De Riemer, a Dutch anatomist, published an atlas of human transverse sections in 1818, which were obtained by freezing the cadaver. The other technique developed during the early nineteenth century was the use of gypsum to envelop the parts and to retain the organs in their anatomical position – a method used by the Weber brothers in 1836.
Pirogoff, a well-known Russian surgeon, produced his massive five-volume cross-sectional anatomy between 1852 and 1859, which was illustrated with 213 plates. He used the freezing technique, which he claimed (falsely, as noted above) to have introduced as a novel method of fixation.
The second half of the nineteenth century saw the publication of a number of excellent sectional atlases, and photographic reproductions were used by Braun as early as 1875.
Perhaps the best known atlas of this era in the United Kingdom was that of Sir William Macewen, Professor of Surgery in Glasgow, published in 1893. Entitled Atlas of Head Sections, this comprised a series of coronal, sagittal and transverse sections of the head in the adult and child. This was the first atlas to show the skull and brain together in detail. Macewen intended his atlas to be of practical, clinical value and wrote in his preface ‘the surgeon who is about to perform an operation on the brain has in these cephalic sections a means of refreshing his memory regarding the position of the various structures he is about to encounter’; this from the surgeon who first proved in his treatment of cerebral abscess that clinical neurological localization could be correlated with accurate surgical exposure.
The use of formalin as a hardening and preserving fluid was introduced by Gerota in 1895 and it was soon found that thorough perfusion of the vascular system of the cadaver enabled satisfactory sections to be obtained of the formalin-hardened material. The early years of the twentieth century saw the publication of a number of atlases based on this technique. Perhaps the most comprehensive and beautifully executed of these was A Cross-Section Anatomy produced by Eycleshymer and Schoemaker of St Louis University, which was first published in 1911 and whose masterly historical introduction in the 1930 edition provides an extensive bibliography of sectional anatomy.
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