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Scanning electron microscopy of the human cochlea — Postmortem autolysis artefacts


Changes in the ultrastructure of the cochlea due to postmortem autolysis make the assessment of the normal or damaged anatomy difficult. Three methods of preserving the human cochlea were compared on the basis of the state of preservation of the sensory cell hairs of the organ of Corti as seen in the scanning electron microscope. Perfusion of the perilymphatic space with a glutaraldehydeformaldehyde fixative within 40 min of death gave preservation as good as that seen in animal studies. Injecting formalin into the middle ear within 40 min of death allowed artefacts to develop when compared with the control ear which had been perfused with fixative. Refrigeration and early removal of the temporal bone gave poor preservation of surface structures.

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This work has been supported by grants from the Medical Research Council of Great Britain and by the Merseyside Regional Health Authority

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Wright, A. Scanning electron microscopy of the human cochlea — Postmortem autolysis artefacts. Arch Otorhinolaryngol 228, 1–6 (1980).

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Key words

  • Scanning electron microscopy
  • Organ of Corti
  • Hair cells
  • Postmortem autolysis