Observations on the inconsistency of dermatome maps and its effect on knowledge and confidence in clinical students.

15 Jan 2018

INTRODUCTION: Dermatomes are an important component of medical curricula and clinical practice. In addition to the intrinsic complexity of dermatome maps, their discrepancies in the literature make their learning among students even more difficult. These discrepancies are particularly evident in the lower deltoid (“regimental badge” area) and upper back. The aims of our study were firstly to identify and compare published versions of the dermatome map focusing on depictions of the “regimental badge” area and upper back, secondly to assess the perceived confidence and knowledge of dermatomes among medical students, and finally to create and introduce a simplified dermatome map. MATERIALS AND METHODS: For the first part of the study, depictions of dermatome maps that included the “regimental badge” area and upper back in webpages and books were compared. For the second part, a dermatome exercise was given to 177 medical students who were asked to draw and label the dermatomes on blank figures. RESULTS: A total of 45 sources depicting dermatomes of the “regimental badge” area and upper back were included in the study and showed significant discrepancies in both areas. In the dermatome exercise, the mean perceived confidence was 3.64±1.58 (scale 1-10). Based on our preset assessment criteria, upper limb, lower limb, nipple, umbilicus and perineum dermatomes were labelled correctly by 57.1%, 43.5%, 52.6%, 60% and 75.7% students respectively. CONCLUSIONS: In light of our results, we propose a map of autonomous regions of clinically relevant dermatomes that can be used instead of whole dermatome maps for teaching purposes.