Learning Cardiology through Art: Modeling Hearts to Understand Normal and Abnormal Anatomy

ABSTRACT INTRODUCTION The anatomy and physiology of the human heart has long captivated the curiosity of human beings, due to its complexity, its importance for maintaining life, and its great symbolic value. The understanding of cardiac physiology and its representations in different art forms has assisted in the training of health professionals, particularly those working in cardiology, as well as communication with families.This article presents the experience of a pediatric cardiology resident using modeling clays to build normal and abnormal heart models, and discusses the implications of this practice in the teaching-learning process among staff and trainees of the institution. CASE REPORT A first year paediatric cardiology resident, with no previous training or experience in the plastic arts, was encouraged by Head of Department to mould hearts with normal anatomy and with congenital heart disease for the purpose of teaching the internal and external anatomy of the organ. The materials used were plasticine and cold porcelain clay. RESULTS Ten anatomical pieces were produced over a one-year period, with progressive improvements in artistic and anatomical aspects. Among the pathological models, there were pieces demonstrating the tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great vessels, patent ductus arteriosus, and ventricular septal defect. CONCLUSION The experience lead to three positive effects noted by the medical team: a better understanding of normal and abnormal cardiac anatomy by the residents, evidenced by their rapid improvement in interpreting medical images such as echocardiography, computerized tomography and nuclear magnetic resonance images; greater access of residents to the plastic arts, in a medical specialty that has always benefited from close proximity with drawings and sculpture; and the production of very low-cost 3D models of normal and abnormal cardiac anatomy that can be used for lectures, clinical-surgical and scientific meetings, and teaching future students.