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Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy - Review

Think back to your last clinical rotation in surgery. Being placed on the spot by the surgeon or not knowing the answer to various anatomical questions is definitely embarrassing. However, it is not entirely your fault - the breadth of anatomy knowledge is so vast that forgetting is inevitable. Fortunately, though, there is a trick that can help you refresh your knowledge and impress your supervising physician - an anatomy pocket atlas, such as ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy’.

Pros and Cons of Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy
Pros Efficient content presentation, use of numbers as labels, clear diagrams that are free of clutter, explanations and descriptions of anatomical structures, fits in your pocket
Cons Lack of colours, structure outlines are hard to distinguish, lack of logical organization, lack of useful additional resources

Short and sweet, this resource is a compact anatomy library that fits in your pocket and doesn’t break your back. You can take a sneak peek at it while walking from patient to patient, before presenting a clinical case, or during a short break in the hospital. However, it’s far from perfect and it cannot replace your standard atlas. This article will shine the spotlight on ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy’ and reveal all its secrets, both good and bad.

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy 5th Edition

Format

Published by Thieme Medical Publishers, this anatomy learning resource has been on the market since 1970 with the publication of the first edition under this specific title. The current and latest edition is the fifth one, which was published in 2007. During those three decades, the atlas was translated in various languages and was launched in various corners of the world.

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy - Cover 

In terms of format, ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy’ is divided as follows:

  • Chapters 1 to 5 - General anatomy, bones, joints, ligaments, and tendons
  • Chapters 6 to 11 - Various systems and specific organs
  • Chapters 12 to 14 - Major arteries, veins, and lymphatic vessels
  • Chapters 15 to 20 - Central and peripheral nervous systems
  • Chapters 21 and 22 - Sensory organs and skin

In turn, the various topics within each chapter are presented over two pages - the explanations on one side and the labelled diagrams on the other. This allows you to get the entire picture of each topic at a glance without having to constantly flip pages - a breath of fresh air, especially when you are frantically looking for information or revising. 

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy - Contents

Versions

Anatomy enthusiasts can find this atlas in two flavours. Since the purpose and selling point of this atlas is its pocket size, the main version is naturally the physical copy. Depending on its condition (new or second hand), the price can be up to $39.99 USD. 

The second available version of the market is the eBook, which Thieme is especially recognised for. The cost is identical to the physical version, but university students can get lucky and access this atlas for free via an institutional partnership. Excelling at spot questions for free during your surgery clinical rotations sounds appealing, right?

Pros

  • Efficient presentation - Squeezing a standard anatomy atlas of at least 1000 pages into one of about 500 pages is definitely not an easy task. As an editor, how do you fit as many explanations and clearly labelled images as possible onto single pages? The secret is to use numbers. ‘‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy 5th Edition’ contains anatomical terms, explanations, and labels matched by corresponding numbers. The terms on the left page match the ones on the right, making everything visible at a glance and navigation a breeze.

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy - Sample Pages

  • Clear labels -  The use of numbers brings another advantage, this being clear illustrations. Since the anatomical diagrams are labelled with numbers rather than terms, their design is sufficiently large and free of clutter. You can forget about miniscule and cramped writing that can only be read with a magnifying glass - simply look at a label, return to the previous page, and read about the corresponding number. It’s that easy!
  • Explanations - How many anatomy atlases can claim that they offer brief explanations about the structures depicted? Not many, if any. Not even the giants like Netter’s or Rohen’s atlases contain descriptions. They might be brief, but even one to two lines can make all the difference in the world. Many structures depicted in ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy’ contain even longer descriptions than a couple of lines, especially the muscles. Those explanations simplify the terms, making them more tangible and eliminating the need for additional anatomy textbooks. It’s definitely a must-have for any reliable pocket atlas!
  • Fits in your pocket - Many students leave their back breaking atlases at home and are forced to resort to inaccurate diagrams found online during their clinical rotations. However, this pocket atlas is so small that it fits in the pocket of your white coat. If you are afraid of looking unprofessional by carrying it with you, no problem - it’s sufficiently small to be carried in your bag, ready to be checked during breaks away from the eyes of curious onlookers. Just imagine how easy anatomy could become with this portable goldmine of information readily available... 

Cons

  • Black and white illustrations - Although the labels are clear, the drawings themselves are black and white. This can make them extremely confusing and frustrating, especially when it relates to muscles or diagrams containing details. Since all neighbouring structures look the same, it is very difficult to distinguish their borders or where everything begins or ends. All the time saved with the numbers are lost trying to find the actual outline of the structure. Not to mention that your mind literally falls asleep and your eyes cry from the headache created by the monotone of colours.

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy - Sample Illustrations

  • Confusing organization - How is the content organized in ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy 5th Edition? In truth, you cannot say with certainty. If you glance at the contents page and rifle through it, you might think that it follows a systemic approach. However, the systemic chapters only contain the organs, while the neurovasculature is depicted in various other chapters. Once you move to the ‘Arteries’ or ‘Veins’, then you are faced with all the blood vessels of every region of the body. In addition, rather than including all the glands in the chapter titled ‘Endocrine glands’, many were scattered throughout other chapters making their search far from intuitive. Those are just a few examples, but in a nutshell, this pocket atlas has no logical organization, making navigation a complete nightmare. Definitely not a label that a worthwhile review and portable resource is striving for.
  • Lack of useful resources - Although anatomy does not really change anymore, its teaching style definitely does. Many atlases are trying to stay ahead of the competition by offering more and more resources with every new edition. They can take the form of review or clinical questions, labelling quizzes, and even dissection videos. Unfortunately, ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy 5th Edition’ doesn’t offer any head-turning ‘extras’ or ‘freebies’. The lack of edition renewal since 2007 doesn’t help its cause either. The pocket atlas offers very basic labelling tests and instructional resources for teachers, but they pale in comparison to the current standard of offers. 

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy vs. Kenhub

As you can see, this atlas of human anatomy has both blessings and curses. On one side, this anatomy learning resource definitely does what it says on the tin - it brings labelled and explained anatomical structures right into your pocket and the palm of your hand. However, those structures and illustrations are far from perfect and can in fact be quite problematic, so the atlas still has some rough edges.

With that in mind, which other anatomy learning resources exist that are equally portable, if not more so? One example is Kenhub, an online learning platform that has helped one million users so far to tackle the difficult subject of anatomy. Here’s a comparison between these two learning resources:

Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy vs. Kenhub

As you can see, Kenhub is more than just an atlas for quickly searching up anatomical structures, although it excels at this, too. It is a complete anatomy and histology learning resource, teaching you the subjects in a variety of ways. If you want to quickly see where an anatomical structure is present while running between patients during your clinical rotation, simply open up the atlas and take a look! You can even see how it looks in a cadaver and as a radiological image too. If you want to find out more about it during a longer break, simply watch the corresponding video or read an article about your chosen structure. You will definitely know all the answers asked by your supervisor during the next rotation! 

You don’t believe it? Then tackle the corresponding quiz after watching the video and see for yourself how much you have learned. The quizzes also help you revise and solidify the information long-term. By the way, if you think carrying a condensed pocket atlas of about 500 pages sounds good, listen to this - all of Kenhub’s resources seemingly integrate across all your electronic devices, making them fully portable! A smartphone or table is definitely easier than a 500 page book. So, what are you waiting for - try it out and see for yourself how easy anatomy learning can really be. As you can see, ‘Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy 5th Edition’ has quite a few advantages, but also some serious flaws. It has an efficient and spacious presentation with short explanations, all of which fit into your pocket. However, it is quite old-fashioned and stingy in terms of additional resources, while the illustrations could do with a lot more touch ups - not to mention a splash of colour. There are definitely alternative resources, but in the end there is no perfect one. It’s up to you to try out a few of them and decide which one appeals to you. Our reviews are trying to shed some light on the matter, and hopefully this article has made your decision a little easier. Good luck!

Highlights

Strengths of 'Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy':

  • Efficient presentation, making topics visible at a glance and successfully squeezing over 1000 pages of anatomy knowledge into approximately 500 pages.
  • Use of numbers for labels, making diagrams clear and free of clutter.
  • Brief explanations and descriptions of every anatomical structure depicted.
  • Small enough to fit in your pocket.

Weaknesses of 'Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy':

  • The lack of colours makes image borders and structures hard to distinguish.
  • Lack of logical organization.
  • Lack of useful additional resources, such as quizzes, clinical questions, or MCQs.
Show references

Extras:

  • Review date: 12/17/2018
  • Reviewed edition: 5th

Article, Review, Layout:

  • Adrian Rad
  • Molly Smith

Illustrators:

  • Thieme Pocket Atlas of Human Anatomy vs. Kenhub - Sami Dai
© Unless stated otherwise, all content, including illustrations are exclusive property of Kenhub GmbH, and are protected by German and international copyright laws. All rights reserved.

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