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Phenoxyethanol-Based Embalming for Anatomy Teaching: An 18 Years' Experience with Crosado Embalming at the University of Otago in New Zealand

: Crosado, B.; Löffler, S.; Ondruschka, B.; Zhang, M.; Zwirner, J.; Hammer, N.

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Anatomical sciences education 13 (2020), No.6, pp.778-793
ISSN: 1935-9780
ISSN: 1935-9772
Journal Article, Electronic Publication
Fraunhofer IWU ()

Embalming fixatives such as formaldehyde and phenol have been associated with occupational health hazards. While anatomists aim at replacing these chemicals, this seems presently unfeasible in particular for formaldehyde. Furthermore, fixation protocols usually require well-equipped facilities with highly experienced staff to achieve good fixation results in spite of only a minimal use of formaldehyde. Combining these aspects, a technique robust enough to be carried out by morticians is presented, resulting in durable tissues with minimal formaldehyde use. An embalming protocol involving phenoxyethanol was established, using concentrations of 7 and 1.5 Vol% of phenoxyethanol in the fixative and the conservation fluid, respectively. Visual, haptic, histological, and biomechanical properties and their perceived potential to positively influence student learning outcomes were compared to standard embalming techniques. The phenoxyethanol technique provides esthetic, durable, and odorless tissues. Bleaching is less pronounced compared to ethanol- or formaldehyde-based protocols. The tissues remain pliable following the phenoxyethanol-based embalming and can be used for biomechanical experiments to some extent. Phenoxyethanol-fixed tissues are well suited for undergraduate teaching with perceived positive learning outcomes and partly for postgraduate training. Phenoxyethanol tissues provide the option to obtain well-preserved histology samples, similar to those derived from formaldehyde. The provided protocol helps replace the use of phenol and formaldehyde for conservation purposes and minimizes the use of formaldehyde for the initial injection fixation. Phenoxyethanol-based embalming forms an effective alternative to standard embalming techniques for human cadavers. It is simple to use, allowing fixation procedures to be carried out in less sophisticated facilities with non-anatomy staff.