Bringing Physical Exam Skills Back from the Dead


Physical examination education begins early for medical learners. A hindrance to physical exam competency is lack of exposure to pathology in standardized patient settings. This research focuses on improving medical education through the utilization of cadavers that have undergone a soft-embalming technique: the Thiel method. Three scenarios were created in four Thiel cadavers: anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) tear, posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) tear, and sham incision. Students were asked to diagnose ACL tears using the Lachman exam. A total of 54 learners participated in the study. Post-surveys indicated most learners: (1) prefer to use standardized patients (SPs) and soft-embalmed cadavers in their physical examination courses, (2) increased their confi dence in performing the Lachman exam on real patients, and (3) enhanced their Lachman technique. SPs ultimately cannot volitionally reproduce the physical exam findings of ACL deficiency. Consequently, learners cannot accurately identify positive versus negative examination findings. Thiel-embalmed cadavers are a valuable resource for physical examination education. (Journal of Surgical Orthopaedic Advances 30(2):112–115, 2021)

Key words: soft-embalmed cadavers, physical exam, interprofessional training, Lachman exam

James Ross Bailey, MD; David C. Tapscott, MD; Norman Y. Otsuka, MD; Kyle T. Boden, MD; Robert M. Becker, BS; Tom E. Kwasigroch, MD; and Brian D. Johnston, PhD