Nomis Publications: COVID-19 Response and Updates

Embalming Technology

John A. Chew Bio

John A. Chew's blog

Embalming Technology (Part 12) Anatomical Positioned Body Cavity Boundaries

Posted by John A. Chew on November 1, 2013


  Posteriorly – Thoracic vertebrae (12) posterior portion of the ribs

  Laterally – Medial portion of the ribs and costal cartilages

  Anteriorly – sternum anterior portion of the ribs

  Inferior – diaphragm the doubled muscle of respiration which separates the thoracic cavity from the abdominal. This is a natural barrier for aspiration.

  Superiorly – Clavicles, superior portion sternum and great vessels (Arch of Aorta) Upper borders of first ribs.

  The Thoracic Cavity is subdivided into three cavities –Pleural, Mediastinum and Pericardial.



  The Abdominal Cavity is divided into nine regions.

  The upper horizontal plane (line) is a line connecting the lower borders of the right and left tenth costal cartilages.

  The lower horizontal plane (line) is a line connecting the right and left iliac crest.

  The vertical lines extend inferiorly from a point approximately one inch medial of the nipple to a point at the middle third of the inguinal ligament (Poupart’s ligament).

Right Hypochondriac Epigastria Left Hypochondriac

Lumbar Umbilical Lumbar

Iliac (Inguinal) Hypo gastric Iliac (Inguinal)



  This will reiterate the aforementioned cognitive information and incorporate it into practical manipulative skills associated with the art and science of embalming. The study of disease and its organic and microbial interaction through an amalgamated approach has led you, the practitioner to a broad understanding of the value of the analytical analysis to the embalming process.

  We began with the study of Anatomy then Microbiology, Pathology and Sanitation. Each one was a necessity to the analytical approach to embalming and specific safeguards for the licensed practitioner and the general public.

  It is the primary goal to systematically provide the authorized practitioner with a cognitive overview of those specific and non-specific conditions related to disease processes that may have a direct influence on the embalming process of the dead human body. Having successfully completed the initial study of Anatomy, the practitioner will have an understanding of surgical dissections required to accomplish the actual embalming. In addition, the practitioner will be able to treat the autopsied (postmortem examined remains) or donor bodies.

  In completing the total amalgamation of the learning process and ongoing confrontation with the many pre-disposing conditions associated with dying and death, the following diagnostic criteria (pre-analysis) is necessary.

Overall picture of the body:

         Size, weight, age and sex

         Position and shape of organs

         Color (racial)

         Surfaces and Cavities

         Consistency of the tissues

         Odors (natural)

         Intrinsic body conditions

Predisposing criteria:

         Cause of death

         Surgical procedures

         Disease processes


         Delayed embalming


         Drug addiction

         Drug therapy




  Overall observation by the eyes see more than color, we see form, luster, (dry or moist) transparency, surface appearance (smooth or irregular) and overall consistency. Pigments may alter organ appearance – melanin, Black – malignant melanoma, Carbon black – Anthracnose of the lungs. Yellow – pancreas – liver, kidneys, infections and tumors, Yellow orange – carotenoids from foods.

  The sense of smell will indicate the following: Acetone – Diabetic coma – cancers, raw liver – Hepatic coma, Ammonia – Uremic conditions, Foul and rotten – Gangrenous, Almonds – Cyanide, Onions – Phosphorus, Garlic – Arsenic and Hydrogen Sulfide – Decomposition.

  The sense of hearing can indicate Crepitation – Emphysema (Bacterial, Oxygen Induced), Fibrous tissue liver/lung – knife cutting.

  Also, the sense of touch and hearing can indicate Air and/or Gas – digital pressure.

  Under current laws, rules and regulations, funeral service practitioners are not given the necessary information to protect themselves. Just treat every remains as a potential hazardous condition. This is the best rule of thumb possible. To accomplish this, regulatory boards must create requirements that will provide safe and sanitary preparation areas as healthy work places. Just having proper work attire isn’t enough. Sterilization isn’t enough as a method of sanitation. Having only limited information as to the cause of death, medications or specialized treatments prior to death, the embalmer must resort to a practical approach without losing sight that no two bodies are the same.

  Much has been written but how much in actuality pertains to the preparation of the body for the funeralization process? The knowledge is important to those who look beyond manipulative skills if only to know how variable factors influence the final process of temporary preservation (embalming).

  The causes of the common visual observations such as edema, jaundice, emaciation dehydration and necrosis may be due to hormone treatment, antibiotic or antifungal agents, radiation and steroids. Unknown criteria each create many variable unseen factors such as decrease in cell permeability, increase in cell permeability, buildup of nitrogenous waste, rapid hemolysis, increase in clotting, bacterial and fungal capillary plugs, change in viscosity of the blood creating clumping and sludge within the vascular system.

  Understanding of the fundamentals of chemical composition of tissues and the chemical processes of decomposition is essential to a better understanding of the mechanics of modern arterial embalming and their pathological significance. Chemical reactions depend on availability of water. If water is removed, cells become stable. Enzymes are activated by moisture (water) and when water is removed, enzyme action ceases. Added chemicals can cause discolorations, destruction of vascular wall structures or produce a hardening of the tissues. This may create a walling off action which effects overall fluid distribution.

  Formalin used as the primary preservative found in embalming fluids has the ability to combine with protein. An example would be the boiling of an egg. The clear biochemical (the white) is changed into a white opaque hard material without alteration of the chemical structure (insoluble albuminoids). On the other hand, if an egg were to be cracked and put into a hot frying pan, rapid fixation would occur to the clear biochemical and the outer layer would change into an opaque leaving the inside raw. This demonstrates the walling off action that would occur at the cellular level.

  Microorganisms secrete enzyme substances that can break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates. Microbes degrade proteins into materials creating various discolorations and odors which are of primary concern to the embalmer.

  Disease processes and traumatic conditions have a direct influence of the distribution of preserving solutions. When embalming chemicals are injected into an artery, the flow follows natural pathways until the intravascular network is filled creating an equalization of pressure which forces the active chemicals into the capillaries. This necessitates the formulation of quality chemicals which can be diluted to achieve maximum preservation results. Bodies with embalming problems offer clues which can serve as a guide for overcoming probable pathological conditions.

  ET-13 will deal with The Chemistry of Embalming.


Close [X]

Your Reply

Join Our Mailing List
  • 246
  • 213
  • 516
  • 268
  • 352
  • 592
  • 1167
  • 1741