Background and Aims: This study aimed to explore if members of the public could identify the location of major body organs as well as pain associated with major organ pathologies.

Method: A survey of 100 participants was conducted in Melbourne, Australia. Participants were invited to mark the location of two internal organs and the site of pain for two pathologies on a manikin. Five anatomical questions and four clinical scenario questions were randomised prior to data collection. Photographs of participant responses were compared to responses of a doctor, and if a site within the same area was identified the participant was deemed correct.

Results: Correct identification of body organ site was poor at 34 per cent (±6.6%; CI 95%) and only slightly better for the location of pain related to clinical pathologies at 39 per cent (±6.8%; CI 95%). Respondents were more likely to identify the location of the heart, or pain associated with a myocardial infarction; 51.2 per cent (±15.3%; CI 95%) and 79.6 per cent (±10.7%; CI 95%), respectively. A minority, 18.6 per cent (±11.6%; CI 95%), were able to locate the gallbladder, and fewer still, 6.4 per cent (±7%; CI 95%), identified the location of pain due to cholelithiasis (gallstones).

Conclusion: Most respondents failed to identify the major organs or the likely location of pain for related pathologies. Limited anatomical knowledge is reflected in the literature, however, these results were poorer than previous studies suggest. These data have implications for help-seeking behaviour and may be a factor in delayed presentation for serious pathology.


health literacy, patient education, anatomy, symptom assessment, pathological conditions, signs and symptoms

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