Tag Archives: cadavers

Opposed to Adipose

There are many scholastic benefits to dissecting a cadaver. But I’ll leave that for another day. For me, the greatest and simplest lesson from the gross anatomy lab experience is this: obesity will kill you.

From day one of lab, it was evident that adipose tissue (body fat) can accumulate almost everywhere and creates a myriad of problems. It invests every crevasse of the body: from your cheeks to your feet. It can get everywhere and anywhere. I wasn’t surprised that there was an unhealthy amount of fat on the anterior wall of our cadaver’s abdomen. I wasn’t even surprised that we had to dig through a thick layer of fat to expose the coronary circulation on our cadaver’s heart, which plainly suffered from cardiomegaly.

I was surprised to find that a thick layer of fat was on almost every abdominopelvic organ we extracted. The adipose tissue not only made every dissection session an arduous and painstaking process, it must have affected every body system when our cadaver was alive. Even if you only accounted for the fact that the fat abnormally distended every available fossa in the body, it’s pretty substantial.

As I said, if nothing else, it has made me more disciplined about working out. If I donate my body to science and it ends up in an academic cadaver lab, I don’t want to hear, “man, look at all that fat.”  Or, “there’s fat there? Well, what was I expecting?”

I want to hear, “man, this guy was so muscular and lean and attractive and rich!”

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Formaldehyde Makes Me Hungry

I get super hungry after every cadaver lab session. In our normal schedule, the end of cadaver lab is the beginning of our lunch break. But even if I get out of the lab early, or if I’m in there in the evening after a long study session, formaldehyde makes me hungry.

It’s a weird sensation. You’re standing there amidst a sea of dead bodies, and all you can think of is how much you want a slab of ribs. It’s most confusing when the bonesaw is being used and you can smell burning muscle and adipose tissue. Talk about an omnivore’s dilemma…

In terms of learning, I don’t think it’s personally beneficial to have cadaver lab before lunch time. I can appreciate that the program directors want anatomy lecture early (while everyone’s minds are fresh), and then want practical implementation of that knowledge directly after. But some days I find myself so hungry that I just “want to get on with the damn dissection so I can eat.”

Today, unfortunately, was one of those days. Our cadaver lab sessions are patrolled by a mix of physicians, practicing professionals, and their teaching assistants. The physicians and other practitioners are excellent.  They show you exactly how to dissect your body, while sharing clinical knowledge and expertise that you can’t get from reading a textbook or looking at Netter’s. The teaching assistants are a mixed bag: they do more grunt work with dissection but each of them has a different opinion on what a hard-to-identify structure is, so oftentimes you’re left more confused. “That’s the accessory hemiazygous vein,”  one says. “No, that’s an intercostal vein,” another will overrule when asked for clarification independently.

The help my lab group has gotten has almost exclusively been from TA’s. Today, a former surgeon came over to assist us. It was great because he helped me understand all of the structures and tied clinical relevance into everything he was saying. But the downside was that the dissection took twice as long because he brought over another physician to confirm his diagnosis, due to one of the structures being abnormal. Then this retired surgeon brought over all of the TA’s for a mini-inservice. Then he called over some of the other  lab groups for more lengthy explanations.

So, it was great to have individualized clinical instruction. It’s something that I dreamed about before starting PT school: a freakin’ former surgeon walked me through a dissection for an hour. But at the same time my stomach was telling me, “Dude, we need to eat. Now!”

I know that it’s really short-sighted. From now on, I have to appreciate and absorb any knowledge that’s being imparted on me — no matter how much my daily needs make me want to hurry the session along.

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