Anybody get sick in gross anatomy lab?

Discussion in 'Medical Students - MD' started by barb, Aug 21, 2002.

  1. barb

    barb Senior Member

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    I was fine last week when we first started working with the cadavers, but today I got really sickened by the smell and by what I was looking at. We were pretty deep in the thoracic cavity, and I don't know what happened, but I just had to leave the room. I had been wearing a mask today (although I never needed the mask before today) and yet the smell was still overwhelming.
    Anyone else get sick in this lab? What do you do about it? For me, all I could do was go outside and get some fresh air for about 10-15 minutes, and then come back. But I don't want to have to leave everyday.
    Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
     
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  3. Doctora Foxy

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    i don't know, but i think i'm allergic to formaldehyde. Ever since we stepped in the lab 2 days ago I've had a bad cough, scratchy throat, and I can't breathe thru my nose--it's the worst cold of my life.

    I was told to wear two masks and put drops of oil of wintergreen on the mask closer to your face...but i won't do it yet, since nobody in my lab wears a mask and i'll look funny. If I develop asthma or something i'll consider it. ;)

    now i'm on sudafed and allegra and nothing works to stop the allergy so i'm going to the doctor tomorrow if i can find time. :rolleyes: All this medication made me drwosy in class today......

    it's gonna be a BAD few months. :(

    anyone have any ideas???

    *cough cough sniffle sniffle*

    p.s. The smell from our clothes and hair followed us (me and my roommie) to my apt and in the classrooms so i sneeze and sniffle and bring tissues eveywhere i go. :( life SUX! +pissed+
     
  4. Hero

    Hero Senior Member

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    We havn't started gross but the 2nd years gave us the advice to wear "Gross" clothes. You wear it just for gross and then switch to your regular clothes later on. Kinda like PE in high school. We also have a shower right out side should we need get real nasty in gross or if we decide to camp at school.
     
  5. barb

    barb Senior Member

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    We all wear scrubs for gross lab. I haven't seen anybody wearing regular clothes in lab.

    Foxy, a lot of people in my class wear a mask. It's no big deal to wear one. I wouldn't wait until asthma develops to wear one, just for fear that you'll look weird. If the people in your class want to dedicate their lives to improving the healthcare of the masses, why would they make fun of you for trying to preserve your own health and well-being?
     
  6. Hero

    Hero Senior Member

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    One of the faculties told us to wear formal clothes to the gross lab b/c many people come to pay their respects to the cadavers during lab and we have to look professional.

    I think I'll just take in liquids before the gross labs.
     
  7. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    It is not uncommon to get sick in anatomy lab. Besides formaldehyde, which is a fixative (meaning it will fix your nasal epithelium and lungs), there are also various other nasty chemicals such as phenol that you could be exposed to. The best thing is to wear a mask, stay in a well-ventilated area (i.e. not a corner of the lab), wear nitrile gloves (offer more protection) and scrubs, and limit the extent of exposure to relatively brief periods (i.e. take breaks). You also want to be well-hydrated before going into lab.

    Fortunately, at my school we had our cadavers prossected, so time spent exposed to chemicals was significantly reduced.

    Hope this helps. :D
     
  8. KyGrlDr2B

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    Vader is right. The day I was head dissector, my nose was constantly running and itching. My professor joking asked me if I was crying, but then he told me that it was completely normal. He said noses itch/run and contact wearers are usually bothered. Fortunately, my contacts have been fine so far. So that is probably why your allergy meds aren't working.
     
  9. none

    none 1K Member

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    Okay, maybe it's different elsewhere...but I've never heard of people "coming to pay their respects" at the anatomy LAB! It would be so horribly distracting for the students and painful for the family. I just can't imagine that. Your professor really said that happens? Or was a student passing an urban legend? I know for a fact they don't at UCI. The family never sees the body after its initial collection. The body is cremated following its use and then the ashes are spread by the school over the ocean.
     
  10. Hercules

    Hercules Son of Zeus

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    Definitely don't wear your lab clothes home! They gave us lockers last year, and that's where the scrubs stayed (unless you needed to wash them). I've also never heard of families paying their respects in the lab. We hold a cadaver memorial service each year for the donors and their families.
     
  11. souljah1

    souljah1 Attending

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    I second the not giving a crap about what everyone else will think of you. Foxy, if it is bothering you then do something about it. As we go through our training we will have to wear all sorts of 'unfashionable' gear. I don't think your classmates are that sophomoric to giggle and jump to conclusions just b/c you are wearing a mask. And if they are, it doesn't say much about their level of maturity. Who knows, once you start wearing one..maybe other people will think it is a good idea and wear one as well. Squash the insecurity about what others will think of you and just do what you need to do. I know that after visiting lots of anatomy labs on interviews, etc..you'll be seeing a mask on me. I don't want to breathe formaldehyde all day. And if people think that I am weak or whatever, let them think that. I'm not in medical school to fit in with everyone else's fitting in routine. I stopped doing that in high school. I am not trying to ruffle any feathers, but we are adults and really should not concern ourselves will any more of the , 'oh my god, look at Foxy. she is wearing one of those masks. hahahahahahaha. she looks sooooo dumb'.

    be yourself,

    souljah:D
     
  12. none

    none 1K Member

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    You shouldn't make fun of those with masks, but you also shouldn't assume you'll need one from a short exposure. Many people in my class were initially bothered by the formaldehyde and then got over it within a week. The formladehyde levels easily meet OSHA standards for the exposure time we get.
     
  13. moo

    moo 1K Member

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    I know this is kind of completely different but when I used to clean do-do as a CNA, I brought a mask to work because I couldn't stand the smell. At first it was weird, but then afterward the others didn't care because I was always willing to do the dirty work so they didn't have to do it!
     
  14. THE instiGATOR

    THE instiGATOR Cow Tipper

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    Surprisingly, I didn't hurl when cadaver juice spattered into my mouth on the first day of dissection. I wish I had a mask on then! ;)
     
  15. Diogenes

    Diogenes Succat

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    I don't think I've ever heard anyone refer to it as "cadaver juice" before.
     
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  17. candybits

    candybits Senior Member

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    We all just wear white lab coats (the type of coat you'd wear in in your undergrad chem labs) on top of our regular clothes. We haven't started gross anatomy yet, only histology labs for now, but that's what I used to do back in my days as a physical therapy student.

    I think I was feeling sick for the first few days in the lab, but when it came down to business, like memorizing structures and the thought of being tested on that stuff, I just started viewing the cadavers as nothing more than "instructional models." Then it became so much easier to just focus on studying.
     
  18. Hero

    Hero Senior Member

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    I can't find the article I'm looking for. But I remember reading a paper i think in mutagenesis that said something that formaldehyde causes increased micronuclei in the nasal epithelium of workers that use formaldehyde a lot. Nothing really conclusive but I'd wear a mask just to be safe.

    Title
    Formaldehyde and cancers of the pharynx, sinus and nasal cavity: I. Occupational exposures.

    Source
    International Journal of Cancer. 38(5):677-83, 1986 Nov 15.

    Abstract
    A population-based case-control study was undertaken in 13 counties of western Washington to determine if occupational formaldehyde exposure was related to cancer of the oro- and hypopharynx (OHPC, N = 205), nasopharynx (NPC, N = 27) or sinus and nasal cavity (SNC, N = 53). Controls were selected by random digit dialing (N = 552). A telephone interview inquired about lifetime occupational history as well as a number of potential confounding factors, including smoking and drinking. Approximately half (N = 143) of the case interviews were with next-of-kin. Occupational formaldehyde exposures were assessed by application of job-exposure matrix developed for this study which classified unique job codes into 4 categories based on judgement of likelihood and intensity of formaldehyde exposure. Exposure scores were calculated by weighing the number of years in a formaldehyde-associated job by the assigned exposure level.
     
  19. Hero

    Hero Senior Member

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    The effects assuming a 15-year induction period were also investigated. Logistic regression was used to estimate exposure odds ratios (OR) while taking into account multiple risk factors for each site. No significant associations were found between occupational formaldehyde exposure and any of the cancer sites under study. However, relative risk estimates associated with the highest exposure score categories were elevated for OHPC (OR = 1.3, 95% Confidence Interval = 0.6-3.1) and NPC (OR = 2.1, 95% CI = 0.4-10.0) when an induction period was accounted for. When only live interviews were considered, the odds ratios for OHPC and NPC increased to 1.7 and 3.1 respectively. Several limitations in the study tend to conservatively bias the results and must be taken into account in its interpretation.
     
  20. Emcat

    Emcat Member

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    The first day of gross, about a week ago, I think that I was so anxious and excited and had so much adrenaline that the smell didn't really bother me. The second day, however, we went in late in the afternoon and I immediately noticed the smell seemed stronger and it all just seemed a little worse to see too. My stomach started getting upset and after 2 hours I left feeling pretty awful. Since then I've taken a few precautions - I put Vicks under my nose, use a little eucalyptus oil on my temples, and suck on a mint before I go in and right after I get out. Fresh air breaks on occasion are good too. You'll definitely get used to the smell - it gets a little easier each day (unless of course you're allergic like some people seem to be!). I have also noticed that I am accustomed to the smell of my own cadaver so when I go look at somebody else's the smell seems worse. Good luck!
     
  21. racergirl

    racergirl Senior Member

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    My school is covering Gross in 7 weeks this year, so we're in the lab 3-4 hours a day, 5 days a week, plus extra time on weekends. There is NO WAY any of us would wear our street clothes in the lab--the smell is too strong! I just wear old clothes (a hoodie and yoga pants) but most people wear scrubs. We have locker rooms next to the lab, so we change there--no showers though :(! I've only seen one girl wearing a mask, but don't worry about it at all if you feel you need one. As for getting sick, well, most things don't bother me, but cleaning out gobs of fat (that liquifies and runs over your hands) makes me a bit sick. I haven't had to leave or anything, but sometims I have to turn away and take a few breaths. Anyway, if you feel you need to step out for a few moments or wear a mask, don't worry about it at all. One of my lab partners has to step out occasionally, and nobody minds--we just make sure to update her if she missed anything while she was gone.
     
  22. barb

    barb Senior Member

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    Today I went to go buy masks and they were all out. I was really nervous because yesterday I had worn a mask, and I still felt very sick. Today I would have to go it alone. I walked in the lab and the smell was so strong I had to leave. I stayed out for a few minutes then gathered myself together and tried again. This time I went in with the mindset that if I can't do it, then that's OK, I can just leave and learn the stuff I need to another day. With that in mind, I was much more relieved and miraculously I was totally fine for the entire time. I was even able to look at other people's cadavers - and for me, it's one thing to handle my own cadaver, but usually 10 times harder to look at someone else's - the smells are different, the looks are so different. One table's cadaver smelled so strongly, but it had such good structures, so I wound up standing next to it for a almost a half hour. I think that because I knew that at any minute I could just walk out and leave and that would be OK (attendance is not mandatory in lab, although I think most people go), I was relaxed enough that the smell didn't make me sick.
     
  23. Doctora Foxy

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    update: i am sooooooooooooo sick right now, but i'm not sure if it was from formaldehyde or just a coincidence..but the smell in the lab definitely makes it worse.....so I'm going to the doctor tomorrow to get antibiotics...i have fever and everything :(

    lately when anyone mentions anatomy, cadavers, or med school I feel like throwing up. :( I need to relax a little and get better....i think i'm getting sick from stress and exhaustion (and everything happening so fast).....

    time to take it easy and study hard

    good luck in anatomy guys (and thanks for reading all my complaints! :laugh: )
     
  24. Vader

    Vader Dark Lord of the Sith
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    Are those two not mutually exclusive? ;)

    Anyway, hope you feel better soon. :D
     
  25. KyGrlDr2B

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    Different cadavers definitely smell different. I've noticed the ones with more fat smell much worse. Thankfully, mine is a thin guy so we don't have that problem. We opened another group's case to look at the cadaver and the smell was so strong, we had to let her air out. :( And she is so "juicy" that the group hardly has to use any towels to moisten her when they close her case up. Ugh. But I don't believe anyone in the class has gotten sick. They use some wintergreen oil thingy to make it smell better.

    My main problem is that when I see an old person now, I think of a cadaver. :(
     
  26. Centrum

    Centrum SMILEY KING

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    Ahh poor Foxy. I hope you get better!!
     
  27. Fenrezz

    Fenrezz AT Stills Worst Nightmare

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    One thing I noticed was that wearing a white lab coat saves your scrubs. I've been in anatomy lab 3 times already wearing a lab coat. The lab coat REEKS of formaldehyde, but the scrubs I was wearing dont smell at all (that I can tell anyway).

    Kinda sucks tho. I've been using that lab coat for 3 years and now it must be chucked into the fiery depths of hell.

    Also, Doctora, there is only one girl who uses a mask in our lab and I can assure you, no one notices. Hell I was thinking of using one the first day too. The smell nearly bowled me over when they lifted the sheet off him. It was funny, I kept picturing Kramer doing one of his acrobatic near falls, and kept having to hold back my laughter while the professor was speaking for the first time.

    Imagine how popular I'd be with him bursting out in laughing during his welcome speach with all those cadavers around. :rolleyes:
     
  28. Coalboy

    Coalboy Senior Member

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    Some of our cadavers are using a new type of fixative that doesn't smell nearly as much as formaldehyde. I don't know what it's called, but I like it. Of course, since it's new, it could be some horrible carcinogen, but what can you do?

    It still makes my eyes burn sometimes, but fortunately, that doesn't happen too much.
     
  29. Doctora Foxy

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    i'm a little better now :) i think my cold may just have been a coincidence...a bunch of people in my class are sick and all the stress probbaly brought it on.

    I think I just have to get used to the smell of the lab. I went there this weekend and it wasn't too bad since we weren't dissecting. :)

    Time to go study more moore :)

    good luck guys
     
  30. AggiePA

    AggiePA Junior Member

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    To Doctora Foxy and all others:
    forgive me if I'm in the "wrong" board but I had to put in my 2 cents. I'm in PA school and just finished my summer semester of gross anatomy. I was by far the biggest nervous wreck when it started but by the time it was over I found myself missing the class.
    To Foxy: a couple of people in my class were also constantly sick in lab and our instructor said that it's not uncommon because of the chemicals. So you might just be one of those who'll have a runny nose for the duration! She did tell one of my classmates, however, that if you start to develop headaches/migraines (like my friend did) that you need to probably talk to someone about it and find a different way to do lab (like more but shorter periods of time).
    The idea of rubbing Vicks under your nose is great--I did it all summer and it really seemed to help with the smell. Another thing I did was use Vick's in between gloves (I'm sure you double-glove as well) because one of the things that used to make me sick was the smell on my hands AFTER lab. That stopped as soon as I started using Vick's.
    Good luck to you and everyone else!
    Gig 'em
    AggiePA
    UT Southwestern Class of 2004
     
  31. Doctora Foxy

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    Thanks AggiePA! :)

    Actually a girl in my class has asthma and she told the prof she was getting sick, and he gave her this thing that looks like a gas mask to put on! So if I wore a surgical mask it wouldn't be so weird. ;) I'll definitely try the vix thing.

    Today during dissection I took a bunch of short breaks for clean air and water.....I also try not to put my face to close to the cadaver, and since I'm short and i stand on a stool during lab, I'm not that close to the body. :)

    But still sniffly.....I just hve a better attitude in general this week cuz I think anatomy is cool. :cool:
     
  32. Chengster

    Chengster Junior Member

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    Hey Foxy, Sorry to hear you were sick but glad to hear you're doing better. I just wanted you to know that I had a runny nose and watery eyes almost thru the whole gross lab course, esp during thorax and abd. You're definitely not alone! In fact, the prof has developed an allergy over the years and that's why he chews gum and has air purifiers in the room! Wear your lab coat and leave it in the lockers and double glove! And not to worry, family do not come in to the gross lab. I find that quite distasteful and disrespectful personally. The COM is very strict about who can enter the room, hence the magic code. We also have a very nice ceremony at the end of the semester and each class dedicates a project to the special people who donated their bodies for our education. Past projects have included benches, trees, paintings, ceramic tile mosaic, songs, etc. Well, have fun and learn! Hope to see you around!

    Go Gators!

    Chengster, MS3
     
  33. Doctora Foxy

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    Hey chica! Glad you finally registered ;)

    So what did you take for your allergies during gross? I went to the health center today and the nurse gave me claritin D, so I'll see if that works tomorrow in lab. :) It made me nice and hyper today! :laugh:
     
  34. 8744

    8744 Guest

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    The only thing in gross lab that made me gag was that sludge that accumulates in the body cavities and under the cadaver. You know what I'm talking about. It looks like the leftovers from the roasting pan on thanksgiving.

    I'm getting ill just thinking about it. My wife went to Wal-Mart and bought turkey basters for the class so we could empty this stuff into the bottom of the tank without touching it.

    Oh, and sawing the head into two halves, opening it like a book, and pushing it foward off of the retro pharyngeal space was a little hard to take. I used a hand saw, because I find the smell of burning bone (from the power saw) unpleasant.
     
  35. Chengster

    Chengster Junior Member

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    Well I didn't do much about the rhinitis except carry tissues in my pockets, blow my nose, try not to stick my face too close, and minimize the amt of time I spent in gross lab. The great news is that the Gold Std website (accessible via the class website-free for UF students) covers the same material b/c it's by our professors! In fact, I studied quite a bit from those images and they're used on the exams too so it doesn't hurt to be familiar with them. I realize it's not the same as real life but sometimes it's just as good if not better (esp those nerves!) If you have a slow internet connection, you might find one of your classmates that has a CD copy, they're floating around every year. Of course, the sxs never bothered me enough to seek medical tx, hope the Claritin-D works! Drop me an email if you have any questions, I'd be glad to try to help!

    Chengster, MS3
     
  36. Doctora Foxy

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    I love the online anatomy program :D I got cable internet hooked up in my apartment recently, so I've been doing those online quizzes all day long! :eek: I don't mind the anatomy lab as much on the weekends when there are only a few people in there, so that's when I go to review all the "real" stuff...but you're right, the online stuff is just as good, if not better.

    The claritin made me feel sick (esp in lab today) so I'm going back to sudafed, which seems to work ok. I think my cold is going away finally! :clap:

    Thanks for all the advice chengster :)
     
  37. I definitely second the thing about the fat.. Our cadaver last year had an amazing amount of fat and we hardly had to spray her down at all, but the smell could be overwhelming at times. At least we never had to worry about her getting dried out or moldy like some people's cadavers though, and a lot of the internal organs and large excretory structures like the ureters were very easy to isolate (which made our group lab exams MUCH easier!). I liked anatomy even though it wasn't my best subject.. I felt like I was almost too emotionally detached by the end though since we had it all semester. The youngest cadaver in our lab was 69, and the oldest 102; but my friend who is now an MSIV at USUHS had a 41-y/o woman who died of a heart attack. I'm not sure how I would have handled that...
     
  38. gherelin

    gherelin Member

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    I felt sick at first too, but also got used to it--taking a break, deep breathing, focusing on something else for a minute or two, having some OJ and a very light snack before you go in, or even trying to go in on your own in the evening to do some dissecting when there isn't as much pressure can all help. I got a rash that only calmed down with prednisone--never figured out what it was but it never came back. Doctora Foxy, have you tried using non-latex gloves? Good luck! Surprisingly enough, when it's all over you'll miss gross anatomy!!!!:p
     
  39. Kirk

    Kirk Senior Member

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    Does anyone else?s anatomy lab use phenoxyethanol instead of formaldehyde? I think it smells a lot better then formaldehyde, although obviously it doesn?t smell ?good?. It is kind of sickly sweet? but I have noticed that I hardly smell it after a few minutes in the lab. Although, if I smell anything like it (outside of the lab) I instantly think Cadaver.

    The worst thing I have seen so far happened to a guy on the dissection team next to me. He was raising the cadaver out of the bottom of the tank and he almost had it to the top when the metal cord snapped and the cadaver and platform splashed into the fluid at the bottom of the tank. Liquid erupted everywhere- on the ceiling, and all over the people standing around, especially the poor guy. He just kind of stood there for a second, spitting out ?cadaver juice? before he went to the sink!

    A couple of people in class had a really hard time eating anything for a few days, and I know one girl that can still (after 2 weeks) only eat salads. She said that if she puts any kind of meat in her mouth she almost starts to vomit! I am glad that it didn?t bother me? I just make sure I wash my hands really well before I eat anything.
     
  40. That's veru true for me. I haven't been able to eat meat since the first day. The muscles look just like roast beef.
     
  41. fragis

    fragis New Member

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    Greetings,
    I am a First Year Medical student here in Manila. I just wanted to ask advice on how to finish the course. It is the middle of the school years and my ratings is really low, and I am very afraid to lose the chance of making it. How would I perk my self-up espeacially studying at night and beat the sleepy feelings and loose all the memory I need. Will it be safer to sleep just for 3-4 hours every night studying. What Vitamins and energy drinks should I have, is it really helpful?..To tell you the truth I am not that intelligent, I have bad memory retention, it is really heartbreaking when you work hard and never got the prize in the end, sometimes I got envious with people so smart just reading and getting the details, well how can I improve, since I need to to do a big cathc-up on my subjects. Could you give advice, also in Anatomy laboraory exams.

    Thanks
     
  42. kutastha

    kutastha 2K Member
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    Our cadaver was a 29 year-old male.
     

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