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News & Articles > Gray’s Surgical Anatomy, understanding the anatomy encountered at operation

Article by Professor Peter Brennan

It has been an immense privilege and honour to be an Editor for the new Gray’s Surgical Anatomy.  The original edition of Gray’s Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical was published in 1858. The book is now on its 41st Edition and has become a renowned reference book of anatomy which is used worldwide.

Yet despite its many qualities and deserved reputation, the modern Gray’s Anatomy is not intended to be explicitly a textbook of surgical anatomy. The concept of our new book, Gray’s Surgical Anatomy, was to try and provide the reader with a detailed understanding of the anatomy encountered at operation. We wanted to bring the anatomy alive so that readers could pick up the book before a surgical procedure and be familiar with the anatomy seen at operation rather than trying to translate it from cadaveric specimens, or to try and put anatomical structures together from different anatomical systems without really understanding the relationships.

Much of the concept for this book came from our own (often poor) experience of trying to learn anatomy relevant to surgery from textbooks that were difficult to read and comprehend. Anatomy itself remains fairly constant, but the key to its understanding is appreciating how structures relate to each other, what is safe and what is not when performing procedures. This new book is beautifully illustrated in colour throughout, using both artwork and operative anatomy photographs, supplemented by radiological images where appropriate. Together with online videos of both cadaveric and live surgery demonstrations of relevant anatomy, the artwork complements the text.

Throughout the book there are top tips and hazards which are passed on from the surgeon authors to help enhance safer surgical practice. Many preventable errors occur in surgery and it is well known that  the operating theatre is one of the most dangerous places in the hospital. What better then than to have a chapter right at the front of the book on minimising human error. By understanding how we can reduce error by adopting often common sense approaches to surgery makes for a much safer experience for patients. We have also included case studies throughout the book to bring the relevant anatomy to life, together with some questions to test recently learnt knowledge.

To hold the actual proofs of the 1858 version of Gray’s Anatomy was a surreal experience. Many of the diagrams in that book are very similar to our own new book, though of course have been brought in to the 21st century.  The future of anatomy teaching will undoubtedly include 3D technology which is already in use by some medical schools. We envisage that future editions of our book will contain 3D images- their quality is simply superb. We wonder what Henry Gray would have thought about the developments over the last 150 years that have occurred both in anatomical teaching and surgery?

Professor Peter Brennan displaying Gray’s Surgical Anatomy, 1st Edition along with the first edition of Gray’s Anatomy (1858) at the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh.
Professor Peter Brennan with two Senior Council members of the Royal College of Surgeons Edinburgh, Mr. Stuart Clark (right) and Mr. Roger Currie (left).
Proof of the first edition of Gray’s (1858)

Gray’s Surgical Anatomy, 1st Edition is written and edited by expert surgeons in collaboration with a world-renowned anatomist, this exquisitely illustrated reference consolidates surgical, anatomical and technical knowledge for the entire human body in a single volume. Part of the highly respected Gray’s ‘family,’ this new resource brings to life the applied anatomical knowledge that is critically important in the operating room, with a high level of detail to ensure safe and effective surgical practice. Gray’s Surgical Anatomy is unique in the field: effectively a textbook of regional anatomy, a dissection manual, and an atlas of operative procedures – making it an invaluable resource for surgeons and surgical trainees at all levels of experience, as well as students, radiologists, and anatomists.

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