Friday, June 8, 2007

You wanna do what!?


Embalming and or some type of preservation, has been recorded in history as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. Back then, only the wealthy were mummified. History has shown that the Egyptian mummies were extremely well preserved, making them recognizable as humans for thousands of years. Over the years the procedure has changed many times to what we now know as modern embalming.

We use embalming today for two primary reasons - to allow adequate time between death and burial so that various customs may be performed in between and to prevent the spread of infection although not the main issue. Cosmetics and cosmetic work are primarily used for aesthetic reasons.

Modern embalming now consists mainly of removing blood and gases from the body and the insertion of a disinfecting/preservative fluid. Small incisions are made in either the carotid or femoral artery and the jugular or femoral vein, a disinfecting/preservative fluid is injected through the artery, and the blood is drained from the vein.

If an autopsy has been performed, the vital organs are removed and immersed in an embalming fluid and then replaced in the body, often surrounded by a preservative powder. If an autopsy has not been performed, the embalmer aspirates fluids out of the body cavity by making a small incision near the navel and aspirating the bodily fluids.


This is probably the most often asked question of embalmers.

It is primarily done to disinfect and preserve the remains. Disinfection is important for all who handle the remains and for the public safety of our communities. In years past, deaths due to Typhoid Fever, Malaria, and other highly contagious diseases put funeral directors and others who came into contact with the remains at risk of contracting the same disease. With today's Universal Precautions the embalmer really need not worry as long as he follows them. Secondly, there has traditionally been a period of visitation or viewing of the remains. This is known as the wake or calling hours. Without embalming, most remains become un-viewable within a short time. There are constant changes going on chemically and physically within the remains that affect the looks that we are accustomed to seeing. Embalming acts as a hindrance to this and gives us time.


Another common question.

When a body is to be embalmed, it is subjected to a series of steps before the actual preparation of remains are complete.

STEP 1- Pre-Embalming Prep

First, funeral home personnel place the remains on an embalming table, not unlike those used for an autopsy. They then remove all of the clothing, and either clean and return them to the next of kin or destroy them. Next, personnel carefully inventory any jewelry, usually taping or tying rings in place, to prevent loss. Other jewelry and glasses are removed during embalming and then replaced on the remains. The deceased's features are the adjusted.

STEP 2- Preparation

The embalmer bathes the remains with a disinfectant spray or solution by sponging it on. Next, the embalmer positions the remains. He relieves rigor mortis (the stiffening of muscle tissue due to chemical change) by flexing and massaging the arms and legs. Then he or she will move the limbs to a natural position. At this point any hair or stubble is removed with a razor. To begin the embalming process, a small incision is usually made on the remains right side of the lower neck. It is at this site that two of the largest circulatory vessels are located. The carotid artery and the jugular vein.

STEP 3- Embalming Process

Incisions are made and a tube connected to the embalming pump is placed into the carotid artery. Another tube is placed into the jugular vein, this is called a drain tube. The basic theory is to pump embalming fluid into the artery. This will cause the blood to return through the veins for disposal. Approximately 3 gallons of a mixture of fluid and water are circulated through the remains for thorough disinfection and preservation to take place. There are times when clots and other factors stop the flow of fluid through out the whole system, and at these times, other points of injection are necessary in order to do a complete and thorough embalming. There are many factors which go into the process, which cannot be explained here due to space limitations, but some of the factors that the embalmer must assess before embalming are the mode of death, the weight of the remains, the general overall condition of the remains, any disease, etc. These factors determine the types and strengths of fluids used, and the type of embalming necessary to complete the task. This type of embalming is known as arterial embalming.
The next step, called cavity embalming, is the application of full strength fluid to the internal organs. A small incision is made in the abdomen, and an instrument called a trocar is placed inside the abdominal and thoracic cavities. The embalmer aspirates both the abdominal and thoracic cavities. The trocar is then attached to a gravity fed system, which causes full strength fluid to be put into each organ. All incisions are then sutured closed.

STEP 4- Washing

The embalmer then washes the remains with cool water, he or she then cleans the fingernails, and applies other chemicals on the hands and face. The embalmer then washes the hair. This may be done either before, during, or after embalming.
Hairdressing is normally done after embalming has been completed.

STEP 5- Dressing and Casketing

The fifth and final step is dressing and casketing of the remains. It is common to use a full set of clothing, including underwear, socks or stockings, and sometime even shoes if so desired. Once dressed the embalmer will begin the cosmetizing of the face and hands of the remains. A special mortuary cosmetic is used, although store bought cosmetics may be used also. This is the true art of the embalmer. It is through the proper application of cosmetics, that a more life-like presentation will be made. The final step in the preparation of the remains is to place the remains in a casket. Adjustments to clothing, touching up of hair and cosmetics and properly fixing the interior of the casket. This final step is usually very time consuming and must be done properly. This is the result of all the other work combined. The embalmer tries to pose both the head and hands in a life-like position, and finishes up his work by making everything look tidy and uniform.

It's now time to call the family.

1 comment:

KatieScarlet said...

I'm glad I found your site. I've always had many questions. I appreciate all the information you've published on your site.

Thanks, once more.