Thiel embalming technique: a valuable method for microvascular exercise and teaching of flap raising

Microsurgery. 2008;28(4):273-8. doi: 10.1002/micr.20484.


Because of its high requirements on dexterity and microsurgical skills and the need of complete understanding of flap anatomy, microvascular free flap transfer belongs to the most demanding surgical procedures. Therefore, courses for flap raising and microvascular exercise are considered a prerequisite to prepare for clinical practise. To achieve teaching conditions as realistic as possible we used a novel cadaver embalming method enabling tissue dissection comparable to the living body. Thirty cadavers which were offered to us by the Institute of Anatomy for the purpose of running flap raising courses were embalmed in the technique described by Thiel. On each cadaver, nine free flaps were dissected according to a structured protocol by each course participant and afterwards used for microvascular exercise. The conservation of fine vascular structures and the suitability of the embalmed tissue for microvascular suturing were observed and photographically documented. The Thiel embalming technique provided flap raising procedures to be performed under realistic conditions similar to the living body. Vessels and nerves could be exposed and dissected up to a diameter of 1 mm and allowed for microvascular suturing even after weeks like fresh specimens. The Thiel embalming method is a unique technique and ideally suited to teach flap raising and microvascular suturing on human material.

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical / education
  • Cadaver
  • Embalming / methods*
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Microsurgery / education*
  • Microsurgery / methods*
  • Surgical Flaps / blood supply*
  • Suture Techniques / education
  • Teaching / methods*
  • Vascular Surgical Procedures / education*