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Keywords:

  • anatomy;
  • body donation;
  • ethics;
  • long-term preservation;
  • plastination;
  • teaching

Abstract

Most medical curricula rely on human bodies for teaching macroscopic anatomy. Over the past 20 years, plastination has become an important means of preservation of organs, for well dissected specimens or for body slices. Here, several critical points regarding body donation with legal and ethical considerations for long-term preservation, the use of cadavers in teaching and the preparation of plastinates as an additional teaching tool will be discussed. Silicone S10 is the gold standard in the preparation of plastinates. An important point to respect is the preparation of specimens, since only very well dissected body parts or excellent tissue sections should be plastinated to show the extraordinary aspects of the human anatomy. The preparation of thin and transparent sections and preservation with P40 polyester provides an additional technique to prepare resistant body slices. A selection of samples prepared by S10 and P40 are shown and compared. In addition, Prussian or Berlin blue staining of brain slices is shown to discriminate better between gray and white matter and demonstrate neuroanatomical structures. These plastinates have been used for many years in teaching first- and second-year medical students and have not lost their appeal. Students and staff appreciate the use of such plastinates. One of the advantages is that their use is not restricted to the dissection hall; slices and body parts can be used in any lecture room or in small group teaching. Therefore, ethical and legal questions need to be addressed regarding their specific use. Plastinates do not replace the traditional dissection courses, since students learn best the anatomical features of a given region by hands-on dissection and by exploratory anatomy. Furthermore, plastinates are more rigid and do not allow demonstration of hidden structures; they also become more cumbersome for endoscopy or are too rigid for demonstrating mechanical features of joints. However, although not a replacement for traditional dissections, plastination provides an additional tool for long-term preservation and for teaching human anatomy.