Review of THIEME Atlas of Anatomy
The THIEME Atlas of Anatomy is written by the three German anatomy professors Schünke, Schulte and Schumacher (original German title: Prometheus Lernatlas der Anatomie). To be precise, the atlas consists of three volumes that combined have more than 1300 pages showing entirely the human anatomy, including embryology and gross anatomy. Volume one covers the topics of general anatomy, trunk wall and limbs, whereas volume two deals with the neck and the organs found in the trunk and abdomen. Finally, the last volume focuses on the head, the central nervous system and the sensory organs. Unlike classic anatomy atlases (e.g. Netter, Sobotta), the THIEME Atlas of Anatomy does not merely show illustrations, but divides them instead into small learning units including explanatory texts, histology, cross-section images, radiological pictures, tables and more. The authors’ approach is to combine a classic atlas with a textbook.
The books try to guide the reader through each theme layer-by-layer, e.g. starting with surface anatomy, the muscles and bones and covering the neurovascular and lymphatic systems at the end. The large illustrations drawn by computer are undeniably vivid and colourful making it very enjoyable to work with this book. You will find close-up pictures, different perspectives or schematic drawings positioned appropriately to enhance further understanding. Numerous applications depict clinical relevance and why it is important for a doctor to know human anatomy in such detail. Finally, the book is packed with various tables containing “plain” and organised information which is (unfortunately) often tested in anatomy exams (e.g. branches and supplying areas of nerves and arteries).
The strength of THIEME Atlas of Anatomy constitutes its' greatest weakness. By attempting to offer an atlas and a textbook in one place, it does not replace either one completely. This will be clear when trying to use the books during an anatomy beginners level course, where one will discover that there are too few complete images showing all the structures at once. Most of them seem to focus on one specific topic instead. Also the texts do not go into sufficient detail nor do they mark key words, or important phrases, which is why one might find a complementary textbook necessary for detailed memorization. Lastly, the division into three volumes has the indisputable disadvantage of sometimes one having to use two books at the same time (e.g. when studying the pelvic area or neck and head), which is even more time-consuming.
The THIEME Atlas of Anatomy pursuits to build a bridge between an atlas and a textbook. It is no coincidence that this is one of the most popular anatomy books among medical students. The illustrations are truly remarkable and make it very easy to memorise the structures of the human body. The didactic concept is well received by readers who prefer to learn in small learning units. One has to be aware though that the authors extracted the most important information specifically for medical students, which is why it is not that extensive when compared to other anatomy books.
Even though there is no doubt that using the THIEME Atlas of Anatomy to study will be sufficient to pass gross anatomy exams, one might feel compelled to use a complementary textbook or atlas to answer and clarify further questions or topics. And if you are not planning to or cannot afford spending around $180 for anatomy books, a good alternative to this is kenHub's free atlas. With Kenhub's colourful and detailed illustrations, you can go through all the important structures and get ready for your next anatomy test the easy way.