Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy sits on my shelf of medical textbooks, pages of the brachial plexus and cranial nerves dog-eared for frequent visits, corners of the cover worn down by trips back and forth to school in my backpack.  

Thinking back to my classwork in anatomy, I can imagine how convenient it would have been to have ‘Netter’ available on a portable device.

For medical and health professions students, many of whom are now in the middle of anatomy coursework, the gold standard anatomy atlas is available on Android through Skyscape.

Few of us in the medical profession need an introduction to Netter’s medical artwork.  Containing over 540 images, this app brings the illustrations of Netter to the Android platform for $76.95.  (Note: instead of buying the complete Netter’s Atlas, users may purchase any of the seven chapters, i.e “Abdomen,” for a much-reduced price of $14.95).  Image quality is impressive, though often too small for full appreciation (see below).

Anatomic structures for each image plate are marked with a line for identification, much like the original Netter’s Atlas.  Instead of a structure name, each line ends with black dot.  Clicking the bullet points quickly opens a pop-up window revealing the structure name.  By hiding the structure names the app creates a sort of quiz experience.  The bullet points and pop-ups also eliminate the need for excessively small font within the image.

Each plate, or image, is size-fixed on the screen.  In other words, the user cannot adjust the size of the image to effectively zoom-in or zoom-out.  Most plates are thus larger than the screen (at least they are on my Moto Cliq), and to view the entire image and all bullet-points requires scrolling back and forth, up and down.  In a perfect world, the user would be able to zoom out on the full plate and zoom in on the fine details (also in this perfect world, my Android would have multi-touch for re-sizing).  In the real world, scrolling around to see each corner of every plate is a significant annoyance.

The user finds desired images in one of several ways.  The first – and in my experience, the most efficient – way is to use the table of contents to find the correct image.  For instance, if looking for the vessels supplying the stomach, I would go to the table of contents, then “Abdomen”, “Viscceral Vasculature” and click on the plate for “Arteries of the Stomach, Liver, and Spleen.”  Second, the user may find images directly using the search function.  Last, the user may use the Main Index to search for structures alphabetically.

What I liked:
-The number of images.  This is a complete anatomic atlas.
-The quality of images.  This is Netter, with clarity.
-Multiple methods to find images.
-The “quiz yourself” experience of hidden structure names.

What I disliked:
-On my Moto Cliq images out-size the screen, making for awkward but necessary scrolling.
-No zoom ability.  Most images were appropriately sized for my mobile device, but resizing would be a nice feature.

Skyscape continues to be one of the first and finest places to look for high quality medical apps on the Android platform.  Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy on Android is a highly functional and useful app for students and health care professionals who desire an alternative to lugging around the physical atlas.   I can imagine numerous settings in which a mobile Netter would be useful in my life as a medical student – the anatomy lab, the operating room prior to surgery, and even last minute study before a test.

Is this nifty app worth the hefty price? At $76.95, this app is a considerable investment.  As a consumer of medical apps, I expect a textbook app in this price range to replace the physical textbook, since owning both would be out of my budget.  By way of comparison, a brand new paperback textbook with online access is selling for $64.90 on Amazon this week.

There is no question about the quality and functionality of this app – I will continue to use this app frequently.  Whether the price tag of the Netter app is too high for you will depend on personal preferences (desire for physical text versus mobility), the size of your Android phone screen, your stage in training, and – most importantly – your budget.

Link: Skyscape – Netter’s Atlas of Human Anatomy

Note: iPhone users can find our review of the Netter’s Musculoskeletal Flash Card app here.