Friday, October 13, 2006

Some advice for future cadaver dissectors: Smell

Or, What I Have Learned Thus Far through Observation, Experience, or Trial and Error

Sorry for all the cadaver-related posts; that's all I've done so far that's really 'doctor-ish.'

Anyways, as far as cadaver lab advice goes, here's what I have to offer so far (I can forsee myself adding to this list in the future),

Today's entry is on Smell. On the way out of lab, I was chatting with a fellow classmate, who commented to me that the excitement of anatomy lab is starting to wear off, due in large part to the odours thereof.

As I learned while witnessing an autopsy a few years back, and through my now more frequent cadaver experiences throughout my medical education, I can assure you that the odours of a cadaver lab, and the changerooms preceeding entrance to said lab, are like none other. Though our school uses the chemical Infutrace to neutralize the formaldehyde odour (breaking the formaldehyde down into an alcohol), as can be expected, the inside of what was a long time ago a living, breathing person does not exude the most pleasant odour in the world.

To make it worse, some of the bodies are less well-preserved than the others, and in addition to organs being dark and crumbly, as can be expected, there is an increased intensity of questionable aromas which grace the nasal passages.

There are some strategies available to combat this unpleasant aspect of anatomical education.

  • Lip Treatment. Spread a swath of Vapo-Rub or similar menthol lotion on your upper lip before entering lab. By the time this odour has faded, you will have mostly adjusted to the smell.
  • Hand Protection. While the gloves are the obvious universal means of maintaining a healthy barrier between one's hands and the items those hands are caressing, they can - IF used properly - play a crucial role in odour protection. In my zest to appear macho or non-squeamish during my past anatomy lab experiences, I used to only wear one pair of latex gloves; however, I was unwitingly exposing my hands to a great amount of odours, many of which were retained for hours after leaving lab and even making numerous visits to the sink.

    I have since learned that this amount can be significantly reduced, shouldst one use the Vitum Medicinus patented double-glove technique. Instead of simply using two layers of Latex gloves, avail yourself of the nitrile gloves, but make use of these underneath a pair of latex gloves. This specific arrangement serves a number of purposes.

    First, I have found the nitrile gloves to be effective in odour-penetration preventance when used in conjunction with latex.

    Second, limited direct exposure to latex is a good thing; more and more people are developing hypersensitivities each and every day, and God knows we'll be exposed to plenty of latex throughout the course of our medical careers.

    And third, while the nitrile gloves should be closest to the skin, an overlying layer of latex glove will allow the gloves to fit tighter to the hand, improving grip, accuracy, and dexterity.

Although the preceding exhaustive and unquestionably useful description will undoubtedly lead you to believe that I an expert on odour control in the cadaver lab, I will make this honest confession; I have actually a lot more yet to experience as far as the anatomy lab is concerned. We haven't yet dissected deep into the abdominal cavity. That being mentioned, I'll confide in you that I am not looking forward to dozens of individuals using their scalpels to penetrate the membraneous containers that the good Lord intended never to be opened - let alone months after the spirt has left the body - due to the odorous nature of their contents.

Indeed, the worst is yet to come.


1 comment:

Robert Wilson said...

TY. Am going to add Nitrile Gloves for sure. Was wondering about them. Very useful information. With this attitude I believe you will make an excellent Doctor. I hope you keep your attitude about sharing things like this with the public in the future.