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Last Updated: Tuesday, 29 January 2008, 13:43 GMT
Surgical gown 'marked up for ops'
Medical student Melissa Gilbert modelling the gown

A surgical gown has been developed to help medical students get a closer understanding of what it is like to go under the knife.

The gown is covered in nine zips showing where incisions are made for operations such as open heart surgery and removal of the appendix.

Its silk material is also more like human tissue than the plastic of traditional models.

It has been designed by teams at Durham and Ulster Universities.

We want to help students understand the significance of the body as well as its structure
Professor John McLachlan
Durham University

The creators hope the gown, which goes on international display in the US this week, will significantly improve understanding, not only of where operation incisions are made, but also what they mean to the patient.

The idea is that it should be worn by students in the classroom, and supplement traditional teaching aids in helping to explain surgical procedures.

Plastic models can be used to show areas of the body where incisions will roughly be made, say the creators, but give no sense of empathy for the patient.

Potentially, the gown could also help explain procedures to patients.

Professional distance

Developer Professor John McLachlan said: "Current anatomical teaching aids describe but they don't evoke.

"They take no account of emotional involvement or the feel of the body.

"The way medical students distance themselves emotionally from the patient's body has long been seen as a desirable outcome of current modes of medical training.

"But this 'desensitation' also brings with it the risk of objectifying the body. The patient becomes 'the liver in bed four' rather than Mrs Smith.

"We want to help students understand the significance of the body as well as its structure."

The developers hope the gown will be used in medical schools across the UK and beyond.


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