September 15, 2011

Anatomy lab

Filed under: Med School and the MSTP — sanguinemare @ 11:01 pm
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We had our first anatomy lab yesterday, concentrating on the back.  Our cadavers no longer look full and whole like they did the first day we met them face-to-face.  The 2nd years have already been busily at work at the bodies for the last few weeks, dissecting the limbs and various other parts of the bodies, so the flesh under the neck has all been stripped clean.

Or well… it should have been.

Our poor donor seemed to be a little worse for the wear, and only about half of her skin was removed.  The muscles on the side that it was removed for looked semi-hacked to pieces, and we couldn’t really make hide-nor-hair of it (no pun intended).  Thankfully, the other side was ok, so we were able to see some of what we were looking for.

I was scheduled to be a dissector (how lucky…).  Luckily, the body was already turned face-down, so we didn’t have to roll her over.  Our lab books were extremely unclear about what we were supposed to do, so we spent some of the time just staring at the book, at the body, and back, trying to figure out where to start.  One of our members, E, was very gung-ho about it, (apparently she “fell in love with anatomy” somewhere along the way before med school), so she started helping us “clean” off the cadaver – which basically means trimming the fat off, like you would a piece of meat.  Our cadaver was on the heavier side, so she had quite a lot of fat (and the skin that we had to trim was literally 3/4ths of an inch think, due to the layer of fat underneath).  She was also more “wet,” as one of the professors said, so it was supposedly easier for us to see the muscles of interest.

Actually doing the dissection requires a bit of art.  You can’t cut too close, or you will cut into the muscle, yet if you cut too little, you can’t really see anything because it’s all blurred together.  And it was actually pretty cool when you reveal the muscle fibers from under the fat layers.  Yesterday we focused on the trapezius, latissimus dorsi, erector spinae (which help the spine extend and are divided to 3 parts: ilicostalis, longissimus, and spinalis), rhomboid major/minor, levator scapulae, and the 2 splenius in the neck.  My dissecting partner (we are paired into 2 dissectors, 2 readers, and 1 floater) for the day, A, seemed at a loss for the most part, so I asked him to help me peel off layers (you have to “reflect” muscles to see what’s underneath, which is done by pulling the muscle back enough to get tension between the layers, and using the scapel to cut through the connective tissue/fat holding them together).  E helped with the other side.  I think she got kind of frustrated at how badly the cadaver had been messed up before we got to lab.  Don’t blame her though – I can see why.  This is some of what you’ll have to deal with if you need to share cadavers.  We’re lucky though – at least our body hasn’t dried out or molded.  Apparently there have been e-mails sent out about taking care of cadavers because some 2nd years were not doing a good job.  :\

Afterwards, E and I both felt like our fingers were tingly, and hers actually felt numb.  According to one of the professors, the formaldehyde does that sometimes.  And another classmate spoke of it feeling like it was burning his throat and making him choke.  So not only does it smell bad, but apparently it causes numbness if it gets in your skin too long (I guess as it starts the preservation process on your skin…), and it also causes sharp burning pains in the throat/nose.  Also, apparently washing one’s hands 3 times afterwards, and showering, does not remove the smell on the hands after it has been immersed in formaldehyde for 2 hours.  Great stuff.

Tomorrow we have anatomy again.  This time on the neck muscles.  Oh joy.   (It really isn’t so bad if your attitude is to learn about it from a scientific perspective.  I’m just being melodramatic :P)

I also found out from one of our preceptors yesterday that apparently at my school, they had stopped using cadavers for a while before us, so the dissections were already done for the students.  I guess they just brought this back recently, because our preceptor is only a 3rd year resident, which means he went through the program here 7 years ago.  At any rate, as I’ve said in a previous entry, I’m glad they’re letting us do this the “traditional” way.  I think we learn more doing things hands-on, regardless of the confusion/frustrations.


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