Day 138: Exposing the spinal cord

Today’s inane image of the day:

When I was in high school, I was a part of the robotics team — this is what we came up with the second year I was on the team.

During our last BFCP2 Anatomy Lab session, we worked in teams [things were a bit scrambled since the physical therapy students were no longer joining us for lab] to expose the spinal cord. I didn’t really think much about the dissection until I walked into the lab and was greeted by saws, hammers and chisels. The sounds and scenes brought back fond memories of when I was a part of my high school’s robotics team — back then, I was all too familiar with using power tools to construct a final product, but I had never used those tools to do the opposite: uncover/reveal a structure.

Each of us [that wanted to — understandably, there were a few people who were uncomfortable with the tools] took turns reflecting the back muscles laterally to expose the spinous processes and laminae of the vertebral column. Once the bone was visible, we got the go-ahead to plug in our saws and start cutting into the laminae. Once again, each of us [that wished to participate] had the opportunity to direct the saw through the tough bone. I remember being surprised by just how tough the bone was and wondering if the blade we were given hadn’t been sharpened enough. Oddly [at least to me], the sound of saws cutting through bone didn’t seem that different from a ban saw cutting through wood.

Once the spinous and transverse processes had been divided, we took to our chisels and hammers to separate the two pieces. Quite a bit of force went into this [we let the males take over at this point], but eventually a strip of bone, ligament and other various structures was pulled away to reveal a grey-ish spinal cord wrapped in loose dura mater [the process of preserving the cadavers results in the loss of cerebral spinal fluid from the subarachnoid space]. Apparently, we were overzealous in our sawing because all of the dorsal roots were severed. Regardless, Dr. Forbes came over and excitedly pointed out an intact denticulate ligament as well as the pinkish-tinged filum terminale.

They say that exposing the spinal cord is one of the rites of passage of medical school, and I’m going to have to agree with that one. Even though the whole process took nowhere near the full 2 hours we were allotted, it will definitely remain a substantial memory to reflect back upon.