Monday, January 28, 2013

The First Cut is the Deepest

Last week we had our first cadaver lab.  As we waited for class to start, I couldn’t help but feel anxious and a little nervous.  I have watched plenty of autopsies, fingerprinted deceased individuals, and dissected a cat, but I had never cut into a human before. 

We gathered around the metal cadaver boxes as we received instructions on our first incisions and the rules of the lab.  We learned that four individuals (two male and two female) donated their bodies to our class. I’m so grateful for their donation; there is so much to learn from their bodies that a textbook cannot adequately explain.  At the end of the semester the school holds a memorial service for the friends and families of the individuals who donated their bodies to science; which I think is a wonderful way to show our appreciation.

Once we finally received our cadaver assignments, we met with our group (four students to a cadaver) to unveil the cadaver.  There was no time to be hesitant about making the first incision; we dove right in.

For this first lab we started by making the typical autopsy “Y incision”. We were then responsible for identifying the muscles in the posterior and anterior thorax, and the anterior abdomen.  This may not seem like a lot, but it took us the whole four hours.  Our cadaver was a portly man so we spent a lot of time cutting adipose tissue away from the muscles (mental note: I need to start running more!!).

I had a lot of fun in lab and the time flew by.  However, I must admit that after bending over the table for four hours my back was pretty sore and my hands were cramping from holding the forceps and scalpel.  I’m not sure if I just have really weak forearms, but they were definitely sore the next day.  As for the formaldehyde smell – it didn’t bother me while I was in lab, but once I got home (even after I showered) all I could smell was the formaldehyde on my fingers.

As my final thought, I just want to say that I’m overly excited that I get to wear scrubs once a week for lab.


  1. Thanks for the information on the life of a PA student and working with the cadaver. What a great way to continue to give after your passing in life.

    I look forward to future post. Best of luck!

  2. Nikki, i am still with you even after the first cadaver lab. I appreciate the respect of the cadaver and the memorial service...I always understood med schools did that(at least the ones I know about in Philly). The hand strength and forearm strength comments were very interesting and I believe it explains why my petite female dentist has great toned forearms. Maybe tennis and raquet ball will be your new sports. Aunt Bonnie, hooked on your blog.