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Medical Art of Shapes in the Natural World and Human Anatomy

Medical Art of Shapes in the Natural World and Human Anatomy

Ashley DAvidoff MD Copyright 2015

Medical Art

Art Derived from Imaging the Body 

This medical art piece reveals some 0f the major organs of the body and a variety of techniques used to image the structures.  Examples from X-ray, MRI, CT scan, nuclear medicine, ultrasound, echocardiography and angiography are included.  Much of the medical artwork in AiA is derived from medical imaging

The anatomy of the human body is explored in great depth every day by the medical profession.  Since the development and clinical application of X-rays (1890’s), ultrasound (1940’s), CT scan (1970’s), and MRI (late 1970’s) the inner depths of human anatomy are explored from innumerable angles. In a given day in the USA (2009 data) for example 19,500 CT scans are performed which translates to more than 70 million CT scans per year.  Sometimes a single CT scan may have more than 1000 images and therefore for those who are involved in this endeavor – the anatomy is in our face all day.

If one steps back from the workload , there is great opportunity to explore the beauty, miracle and mystery of the human body.

In the evaluation and analysis of structure, major determinants include size, shape, position and character.  To assist in the description of shape, anatomists and radiologists have likened the shape of structures to objects in the immediate human environment, from the types of food we eat, animals we know, to the ever changing sky above and earth and trees below.

This blog shows a few of those structures that clinicians. radiologists and pathologists come across every day.

Food in the Body


This AiA medical art rendering of the histological appearance of the lungs illustrates the terminal  branching pattern of the tracheobronchial tree  that extends from the bronchi to the terminal bronchioles.  Thereafter the terminal bronchioles transition into the alveoli via the alveolar sacs. The shape of the alveoli and the airways is reminiscent of grapes or berries on a stalk as shown above.  This where the air exchange takes place

Taking an art idea from the chest X-ray…..

Anatomy and Food in the Body

“Anatomy and Food in the Body” depicts the structures of the body that are shaped like food.  The central image consists of a chest X-ray, and the organs of the chest are depicted as pieces of fruit.  The lungs are shown as grapes, the heart as a red pepper, the ribs as banana peels, the pulmonary arteries as carrots and the mediastinum as a dandelion.  To the left of the image, the gallbladder made from a green pepper contains “stones” or green pepper seeds as well as a larger stone created from a banana  slice. The uterus on the right hand side of the image is pear shaped. 

Do you see a dog in this image? Step back and let the pear shaped ears and red pepper nose guide you.

Animals in the Body

Taking the idea from a 3D CT scan….



The AiA derivation shows a 3D reconstruction of a CT scan of a lumbar vertebral body of the spine looking down the barrel of the spinal canal. It shows an angry dog with fierce eyes.  Artistically the blue background color calms the image but the aquamarine blue eyes are surreal and out of this world with a piercing appearance which demands attention.  The dog seems to be bounding forward out of the canvas and straight toward us.  This is an example of bone structure that is reminiscent of the shape of eyes, ears, and a nose of a wild dog.

Taking an art idea from an X-ray

The following X-ray shows a large stag horn calculus in the right kidney and the stone was used to create the art form seen in the following image.


Stag horn calculus in the right kidney


Kidney Stag-horns in Norway

 This art piece depicts the casts of kidney stones  shaped like stag-horns of the reindeer (who live a little further North) in the beautiful background of Flam, Norway. In this disorder the extensive formation of stones in the kidney assume the shape of the renal pelvis and calyces and the description of the entity in the medical community is known as “staghorn calculi”


Trees in the Body

Taking the idea from an angiogram;


Derivation of the Splenic Arterial Tree

The Splenic Tree is derived from an arteriogram and artistically rendered to express the similarity of the branching arterial system of the spleen with the branching pattern of a tree. The top left image is the original angiogram. In the top right image the arterial system is overlaid in red. The image is turned 90 degrees in anticlockwise direction so that it stands upright. In the last image the environment of the tree is portrayed. This includes the green environment above and around the tree and the roots below in the the earth. Both of these serve to nourish the tree.

“The Splenic Artery Tree”

This art piece reflects the final product from the splenic arteriogram shown above.

Finally shape can express emotion as well.  The following art piece reflects a state of disillusionment.

Anatomy of Depression

“Anatomy of Depression” suggests deep anguish and sorrow as portrayed by the shape and position of the head and arms in a person undergoing a CT scan.  This image hurts to the bone.

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