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Gross Anatomy

[anatomy class]
Image credit: BraunS/istock .

In medicine, gross, macro, or topographical anatomy refers to the study of the biological structures that the eye can see. In other words, a person does not need a microscope to see these features.

The study of gross anatomy may involve dissection or noninvasive methods. The aim is to collect data about the larger structures of organs and organ systems.

In dissection, a scientist cuts open an organism — a plant or the body of a human or another animal — and examines what they discover inside.

Endoscopy is a tool for diagnosing illness, but it can also play a role in researchTrusted Source. It involves a scientist or doctor inserting a long, thin tube with a camera at the end into different parts of the body. By passing it through the mouth or rectum, for example, they can examine the inside of the gastrointestinal tract.

There are also less invasive methods of investigation. For example, to study the blood vessels of living animals or humans, a scientist or doctor may inject an opaque dye, then use imaging technology, such as angiography, to see the vessels that contain the dye. This reveals how the circulatory system is working and whether there are any blockages.

MRI scans, CT scans, PET scans, X-rays, ultrasounds, and other types of imaging can also show what is happening inside a living body.

Medical and dental students also perform dissection as part of their practical work during their studies. They may dissect human corpses.

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