Useful Materials for Cross-Sectional Anatomy Education: Silicone Plastinated Examples of Foot and Hand

Research Article

Austin J Anat. 2018; 5(1): 1080.

Useful Materials for Cross-Sectional Anatomy Education: Silicone Plastinated Examples of Foot and Hand

Bilge O*, Çelik S, Yörük MD and Koçer IB

Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Ege University, Turkey

*Corresponding author: Bilge O, Department of Anatomy, Faculty of Medicine, Ege University 35100 Bornova, Izmir, Turkey

Received: February 26, 2018; Accepted: April 05, 2018; Published: April 12, 2018


Objective: Cross-sectional anatomy is crucial in comprehension of the whole body. Furthermore, it is mostly encounters the physicians as radiological images during their education or after graduation. The diversity of materials in cross-sectional anatomy education and their ability to match radiological images facilitate the integration of information. Anatomical examples possessing these features can obtain using plastination. We aimed to obtain real, reusable, safe and demonstrative anatomical training materials to facilitate cross-sectional anatomy training. The final products should be thin, semi-flexible, translucent and durable.

Materials and Methods: A specific sheet plastination procedure with a different surface cleaning method is taking place in this study. Foot and hand slices of 2-3 mm were plastinated with xylene added silicone resin to obtain thin, translucent, semi-flexible and durable slices.

Results: The plastinated slices have fine details of many anatomical structures comparable with radiological images. Translucent feature of the sheets provides useful backlit imaging. Sheets are semi-flexible and durable enough to use safely in practices.

Conclusion: Plastination seems to be the ideal method for preparing and preserving cross-sectional specimens. We believe that silicone plastinated sheets are useful materials for laboratories that do not have adequate equipment or experience to make epoxy or polyester sheet plastinates.

Keywords: Cross-sectional anatomy; Sheet plastination; Anatomy education; Silicone


Since the invention of plastination technique by von Hagens, it has become the best method for preservation of biological human and animal tissues [1-3]. Plastination has helped to increase the variety of the instructional anatomical specimens by providing dry and odorless condition [4]. Among plastination techniques, sheet plastination is one of the most popular and reformist method for preservation of sliced samples. Due to the rapid developing and varying imaging techniques, cross-sectional anatomy has gained importance in recent years. Sheet plastination ensures detailed exhibition of the internal anatomical structures in their normal positions and provides materials to examine and understand the cross-sectional human anatomy [2,5,6].

Two mostly used resins for sheet plastination are epoxy and polyester. Epoxy resin is preferred to preserve 2-5 mm body slices as semi-transparent and durable sections while polyester resin mostly used for brain sheet plastination [7,8]. P40 polyester technique offers opaque brain specimens but also semi-transparent samples can prepared with P35 and P45 techniques [6,9,10,11]. However, in both techniques preparation are more difficult than the standard silicone plastination and need a variety of tools and materials such as safety glass plates, gaskets, fold-back clamps, heavy plastic foil, ball bearings, magnet and oven for epoxy and UVA light for polyester curing. Two commonly used techniques are flat chamber and sandwich [2,6,9,12].

There are numerous difficulties in preparing a perfect sheet example by using flat chamber or sandwich method. Accurate placement, equal resin-mix distribution on each side of the section and removing air bubbles are main adversities.

While von Hagens and Steinke et al. previously presented xylene added silicone impregnation, they prepared solid organ plastination models [3,12]. Pendowski et al. performed thin slice silicone plastination. However, they have used standard S10+S3 resin impregnation to prepare 2-3 mm thin pig kidney slices [13]. In this study, we tried to combine these two previous methods and obtain thin silicone sheets with using xylene added silicone resin. We planned to acquire thin, semi-flexible, durable and easy handling cross-sectional samples as educational material for demonstrating the detailed anatomical topography under conditions of a simple plastination laboratory with basic equipment.

Additionally, we discussed a different surface cleaning method from the current literature [2,9]. Surface cleaning is an important step to protect the anatomical structures while cleaning the sawdust on thin slices. Both surfaces of the sections usually covered with sticky sawdust after slicing. This sticky material is filling anatomical spaces, obscuring details, appearing as artifacts on the surfaces and decreasing the visual quality of the finished product.

Materials and Methods

One foot and one hand of two separate cadavers, which were obtained according the relevant law of the country, were used for this study in our anatomy department. Differently from the foot, after washing with 0.9% NaCl solution, the ulnar and radial arteries of the hand injected manually with red colored polyester (Poliya 354 and Polipigment red, Poliya Composite Resins and Polymers, Inc. Turkey). Both specimens were positioned anatomically and precooled at 4°C in refrigerator for one night to prevent from the ice crystal formation during the storage in -80°C for following five days. Frozen specimens are sawed in 2-3 mm thickness (foot on sagittal, hand on frontal plane) using a band saw machine. All slices placed between wire meshes serially. After one month of fixation at room temperature within 10% formalin solution, slices washed under running tap water and scaled to compare with their final weights.

An important factor in terms of visibility of the slice is the surface cleaning by our experiences. At this step, we choose to use a surgical aspirator and a manual water spray. Aspiration was performed by approaching the cross-sectional surface with acute angle while spraying water. Water spraying helps to dislodge the sticky sawdust and provide efficient aspiration. Low levels of vacuum and a lightning magnifier loupe was used for careful cleaning of some areas with thin, delicate and complicated structures.

After complete dehydration at the end of three months in a graded series (95% - 97% - 100%) of cold acetone baths (-20°C), degreasing in the last acetone bath was performed at room temperature within one week as the standard plastination protocol [12,13]. However, in impregnation step we follow up a different protocol: First, we use xylene added (S/X ratio: 1/0.6) silicone reaction mixture (S10+S3, Biodur Products GmbH, Germany); second, the impregnation was performed intermittently at room temperature as described by Zeng et al, [14]. Curing of impregnated slices carried out in a gas-curing chamber in which the specimens exposed to silicone hardener (S6 Hardener, Biodur Products GmbH, Germany) vapor again at room temperature. The added xylene removed out from the slices using vacuum chamber (Kena-Tek Inc. Turkey) after the curing process.


Impregnation has ended in five days at room temperature. The slices were available for routine usage within one week after impregnation. One-week duration needed for curing and xylene removing. The plastinated slices have fine details of many anatomical structures comparable with radiological images; articular relations, cartilaginous surfaces and muscles with their origins and insertions can be determined clearly (Figures 1 and 2). Red polyester filled arteries of the hand are easily traceable (Figure 3). Semi-transparent feature of the sheets provides useful backlit imaging (Figures 2 and 3). Slices are semi-flexible and durable enough for students to use safely in practices (Figure 4).