Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Where the heart is

If home is where the heart is, a new survey suggests that most people aren't sure exactly where they live. More than half of people cannot pinpoint the exact location of the human heart on a diagram, and nearly 70 percent can't correctly identify the shape of the lungs, according to the survey.

This lack of knowledge isn't just embarrassing -- it could lead to a poorer quality of health care, some experts say.

In the study, published in the journal BMC Family Practice, a research team surveyed 722 Britons -- 589 hospital outpatients and 133 people in the general population. They gave the volunteers four diagrams of human figures and asked them to choose the one that showed the correct size and location of a specific organ. (For example, the heart diagrams showed various size organs on the far left side of the chest, directly in the center, anchored on the center/left chest, and on the right side of the chest.)

Overall, people knew less basic anatomy than the researchers expected -- even those patients being treated for a specific condition involving that organ. Participants generally answered half the questions correctly, including 46.5 percent who knew which drawing represented their heart. In all, 31.4 percent correctly identified the lungs, 38.4 percent the stomach, 41.8 percent the thyroid, and 42.5 percent the kidneys.

The intestines and bladder were the most easily identified, with 85.9 percent and 80.7 percent, respectively, answering the question correctly.

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