View Full Version : Summary: Effects of formalin on bone

John Costi
12-20-1998, 04:19 PM
A little while ago I posted a question regarding the effects of formalin on
the mechanical properties of bone. It appears that storing bone in formalin
does indeed affect the mechanical properties of bone and therefore is not

Here are the responses I received. Thank you to those who responded!

John Costi

***************ORIGINAL POST*******************
Dear colleagues,

Does anyone know what effects storing bone in formalin has on its
mechanical properties??

I will post a summary of all responses.

Thank you for your help

John Costi
Biomechanical Engineer
Orthopaedic Unit
Division of Surgery
Repatriation General Hospital & The Flinders University of South Australia
Daws Road, Daw Park
Adelaide, AUSTRALIA 5041

Ph: +61 8 8275 1126
Fax: +61 8 8374 0712

***************RESPONSE 1*******************
From: Andreas.Boehm@class.de

Yes, it has effect. The effect has been reported long ago as
'non-significant'; but it has effect.
You can contact PD Dr. Eckstein, at LMU Muenchen. He recently has done
a study recently about these effects: eckstein@anat.med.uni-muenchen.de
He found the effects as significant.

Andreas Boehm

***************RESPONSE 2*******************
From: Chris Smith

Formalin, as I am sure you know, crosslinks poteins. Bone is a composite
of protein (collagen) and mineral (hydroxyapatite) and so formalin might
indeed change the properties.
I dont know if there is much literature on this but one name to search
for is John Currey.

Good luck,

Dr Chris Smith,
School of Engineering, University of Exeter,
Exeter, Devon, EX4 4QF, UK.
tel 01392 263615, fax 01392 217965

***************RESPONSE 3*******************
Try looking at F Gaynor Evans' book "Mechanical Properties of Bone". Editor
- A.R. Burdi, 1973, Charles C. Thomas Publishing, Springfield, Illinois,

Chapter 3 (pp. 56-60) covers the effects of alcohol preservation, embalming
and freezing.

Good luck with your project.


Andrew D. Milne, B.Eng. (Mech), M.Sc., P.Eng.
Biomechanics Research Engineer
Departments of Surgery & Applied Oral Sciences
Dalhousie University

Mailing Address:
Room 2111, Biomaterials Tissue Mechanics Lab,
Faculty of Dentistry, Dalhousie University,
5981 University Ave., Halifax, N.S., Canada, B3H 1W2
Tel. (902) 494-2162, Fax. (902) 494-2527
email: milnea@is.dal.ca

***************RESPONSE 4*******************
From: "Kenneth St. John"

There was a discussion of this subject in some letters to the editor with
follow-ups in late 1980's (sometime between 1987 and 1989) in the Journal
of Biomedical Materials Research. I have tried to quickly find the
information but didn't find it. It related to a push-out test of
cylindrical specimens from bone which had been fixed in formalin. The
writers believed that the formalin caused the organic portion of the bone
to shrink around the specimens and enhance the push-out strength in the
study. I believe the authors responded and provided a defense of the
techniques used. The original article has as one author Paul Serekian and
I think deGroot was another author.

If I am able to find the information, I will post the reference.

Kenneth R. St. John Phone: 601-984-6199
Assistant Professor Fax: 601-984-6087
Orthopaedic Surgery and Rehabilitation
University of Mississippi Medical Center
2500 North State Street
Jackson, MS 39216-4505
E-mail: kstjohn@sod.umsmed.edu

From: "Kenneth St. John"
The article is Journal of Biomedical Materials Research 21:1375 (1987). An
editorial appears at JBMR 23:1243 (1989) and an exchange of letters at JBMR
23:1367 (1989). The letters document a significant effect of formalin
fixation on push-out strength. The push-out strength appeared to double if
the bone was fixed in formail before testing.

***************RESPONSE 5*******************
From: K.E.Tanner@qmw.ac.uk
>I think that there is a discussion in Gaynor Evans book in the 1970's when
>people were thinking about preserving bone for mechanical testing
>(particularily tesnile testing). Also try various references from
>Professor John Currey in York (UK) again back in the 1970's.
>Liz Tanner
================================================== ==========================
Professor K.E. Tanner
Professor of Biomedical Materials
IRC in Biomedical Materials and Department of Materials
Queen Mary and Westfield College
Mile End Road
E1 4NS

phone +44-171-975-5318
fax +44-181-983-1799
e-mail K.E.Tanner@qmw.ac.uk
================================================== =========================

***************RESPONSE 6*******************
From: "p.zioupos"

Seek the article by Currey et al. 1995, Biomaterials, 16, pp.1267-1271
for some data and also other previous references


Dr Peter Zioupos
Dept of Materials & Medical Sciences
Cranfield University
Shrivenham SN6 8LA, UK
tel:+44(0)1793-785932; fax:+44(0)1793-785772
email: zioupos@rmcs.cranfield.ac.uk

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