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History of embalming
The embalming theatre
Preparing the deceased for embalming
Step 1: Preparation and "setting the features"
Step 2: Arterial embalming
Arterial embalming is the injection of embalming fluid into arteries, generally using an electrically-driven pump (or, more rarely, gravity). The common carotid artery is an ideal vessel for injection due to its size and strength, providing ease of elevation and insertion of an arterial cannula; further, arteriosclerosis (hardening and loss of elasticity) of this artery is uncommon. Arteriosclerosis increases the risk of pressure causing leakage and tearing in arterial walls, and arterial elasticity is necessary to be able to raise the artery above the skin for injection. The most common type of arteriosclerosis, atherosclerosis (the build-up of fatty plaque within arteries), tends to be concentrated around the aorta. A further consideration is post-mortem blood clots (coagula), and these tend to be naturally shifted into areas of the body that will not be viewed through displacement during injection when the common carotid artery is used, although care in identifying and managing coagula prior and during injection is essential to ensuring adequate distribution of embalming fluid. Constant massage of the body throughout injection helps to break up coagula and promote circulatory absorption of the embalming chemicals.
- Single-point injection (SPI) techniques involve injection and drainage being performed from a single location in the body, usually via the right common carotid artery for injection and the right internal jugular vein for drainage.
- Restricted cervical injection (RCI) techniques involve making two incisions either side of the neck and are perhaps a little more time-consuming; by using a ligature to close the lower portion of the left common carotid artery, excess pressure from is prevented in the head as it is injected separately to the trunk. This technique avoids distention of the head and facial regions from arterial pressure during embalming, guarding against the risk of distending facial features through excess pressure (referred to as "blowing the features" amongst embalmers) whilst allowing large volumes of arterial fluid to be injected. For obese cases, type I diabetic cases with poor peripheral circulation, and cases with partial decomposition, this should be the first method attempted.
- Multi-point injection (MPI) may be necessary where restricted circulation, severe arteriosclerosis or arterial decomposition mandates low pressure injection; further, where it is very difficult or impossible to dissect and raise the common carotid artery, adequate distribution of embalming fluid will require injection at multiple sites particularly in the extremities, as described below.
Step 3: Arterial and hypodermic injection of extremities and underembalmed regions, if required
Step 4: Aspiration and treatment of body cavities
Working With The Dead - Josephine Price Powell