Chemical and physical basics of routine formaldehyde fixation

J Oral Maxillofac Pathol. 2012 Sep;16(3):400-5. doi: 10.4103/0973-029X.102496.


Formaldehyde is the widely employed fixative that has been studied for decades. The chemistry of fixation has been studied widely since the early 20(th) century. However, very few studies have been focused on the actual physics/chemistry aspect of process of this fixation. This article attempts to explain the chemistry of formaldehyde fixation and also to study the physical aspects involved in the fixation. The factors involved in the fixation process are discussed using well documented mathematical and physical formulae. The deeper understanding of these factors will enable pathologist to optimize the factors and use them in their favor.

Keywords: Antigen retrieval; Fixation; buffered formalin; diffusion; formaldehyde; immunohistochemistry; penetration.