Anatomy is a descriptive basic medical science that is no longer considered a research-led discipline. Many publications in clinical anatomy are prevalence studies treating clinically relevant anatomical variations and reporting their frequencies and/or associations with variables such as age, sex, side, laterality, and ancestry. This article discusses the need to make sense of the available literature. A new concept, evidence-based anatomy (EBA), is proposed to find, appraise, and synthetize the results reported in such publications. It consists in applying evidence-based principles to the field of epidemiological anatomy research through evidence synthesis using systematic reviews and meta-analyses to generate weighted pooled results. Pooled frequencies and associations based on large pooled sample size are likely to be more accurate and to reflect true population statistics and associations more closely. A checklist of a typical systematic review in anatomy is suggested and the implications of EBA for practice and future research, along with its scope, are discussed. The EBA approach would have positive implications for the future preservation of anatomy as a keystone basic science, for sound knowledge of anatomical variants, and for the safety of medical practice.
Keywords: anatomy; evidence-based medicine.
© 2014 The Authors Clinical Anatomy published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. on behalf of American Association of Clinical Anatomists.