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Dr. Steve Christos, Director, Medical Student Education, Coordinator Residency Procedures Training, Resurrection Hospital, Chicago, Illinois
April 30, 2012

Dr. Steve Christos is responsible for teaching emergency medicine residents the procedures they will need to function in emergency situations throughout their careers. As medical students, they have had little experience in performing the precise and delicate procedures crucial to emergency medicine. For this type of training, a whole body is the best training tool available. “There is no substitute for the cadaver. It’s so important to get the feel. It’s different from using an animal or an electronic simulation mannequin. “

Intubation, keeping the patient’s airway open, is a major focus for this type of training. Dr. Christos stated that using a whole body allows students to position the head for intubation. Although he employs mannequins, the whole body is the only way his residents can feel that the head is in the proper position to pass the tube. Often they use a small fiber optic camera to locate and bypass the vocal chords. Whole body training is a crucial part of the process of learning another procedure, the insertion of a needle into the throat to ensure the airway is clear.

Emergency physicians often must start central lines, intravenous catheters used to maintain fluid levels. Dr. Christos uses an ultrasound image of the body’s jugular vein to help guide the resident’s insertion of the needle. The second time, the resident performs the procedure without the ultrasound image.

Dr. Christos’ residents at Resurrection Hospital on the Chicago’s northwest side are taught to aspirate every joint by practicing on whole bodies. Often, fluid will build up in shoulder, knee, or other joint. Physicians remove this fluid by extracting it with a needle. The Resurrection emergency medicine residents practice removing fluids in all the joints through practicing on a cadaver.

Insertion of a chest tube is the fast way to manage a collapsed lung. Dr. Christos is clear about the best way to teach this complex procedure. “There is nothing like feeling the skin when doing the incision necessary to insert a chest tube. A cadaver is absolutely crucial.”

Dr. Christos uses a simulation mannequin as well as animal bodies, but in his view, the best training vehicle is the cadaver. “Whole body donation is a good idea. It enhances medical education and trains physicians to perform life-saving procedures safely.” For Dr. Christos and other emergency physicians an accident scene is not the place for a physician to perform a delicate procedure for the first time. Because someone chose to donate his or her body to the AGA, physicians receive the training and confidence they need to act quickly and decisively in emergencies.


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