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Ann Anat. 2011 Feb 20;193(1):71-5. doi: 10.1016/j.aanat.2010.08.003. Epub 2010 Aug 17.

Nitrite pickling salt as an alternative to formaldehyde for embalming in veterinary anatomy--A study based on histo- and microbiological analyses.

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Institute of Veterinary Anatomy, Department of Veterinary Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, Koserstrasse 20, 14195 Berlin, Germany.


Formaldehyde, the traditional embalming agent has negative health effects. Nitrite pickling salt has been reported to be a good and inexpensive alternative when supplemented with antioxidants, but the antioxidants caused yellowish colouration of cadavers, and damaged corrosion-resistant steel tables and stone floors. Here, nitrite pickling salt was supplemented with ethanol and Pluriol(®) and tested for effectiveness as an embalming agent of twenty dog cadavers: 10 with open, and 10 with closed abdominal cavity. The texture of the tissue was monitored intermittently for 12 months throughout the course of an anatomical dissection class. Histological and microbiological analysis of samples from muscles, lungs, duodenum and colon were performed. Dogs with an open abdomen remained suitable for dissection purposes during the entire course. The abdominal organs of the closed cadavers lost their natural features, without histological signs of autolysis. Enterococcus spp., Staphylococcus spp., Micrococcus spp., Bacillus spp. and Clostridium perfringens were recorded after 24 weeks. The open cadavers underwent additional maintenance via renewed treatment with ethanol and Pluriol(®) after each dissection. After 30 weeks, C. perfringens was massively reduced in the colon of the open cadavers. The tested solution successfully embalms open bodies, carries no health risks and is environmentally friendly and cost effective.

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