Embalming is the process by which chemical preservatives are introduced into the body after death. According to the Wyoming Funeral Directors Association, embalming is done to get rid of microbes harmful to others who come into contact with the body. It is also done to halt decomposition long enough to allow for burial or cremation, viewing and funeral. Embalming preserves a body so it can appear as it did in life. This is primarily done for the family. Formaldehyde is the main chemical present in embalming fluid. It acts as a disinfectant and fixative.
Before embalming begins, the body is positioned on the table where embalming will be done and thoroughly cleaned with a disinfectant. The face is also shaved. The eyes, mouth, and arms are positioned for proper viewing.
The embalming fluid is injected into the body. This is accomplished through an incision made in a large artery such as the carotid or femoral. The carotid is between the neck and the collarbone, while the femoral artery is found on the thigh. Blood is typically drained out through an incision of the accompanying vein using an electric pump. Tubing is injected into incised blood vessels and embalming fluid infuses the body as blood drains out. Once the fluid drains clear, arterial embalming is complete. After removal of the tubes, incisions are sutured.
Bodily cavities housing all the internal organs must be embalmed as well. Another tube, referred to as a trocar, is inserted into the abdominal and thoracic cavities to suction away any bodily fluids and gases. Embalming fluid is introduced into both cavities. Autopsied bodies go through a different process here. Because the organs are removed during autopsy and placed back inside the body, the embalmer must treat the individual organs by soaking in embalming fluid for at least an hour, according to the Wisconsin Department of Health Services. The cavity is also treated. Organs are then placed back inside of the body.
The body is cleansed once more, the hair is also shampooed. Next, restorations are done if needed. Facial restorations are required to fix any scars, abrasions or replace facial features. The hair is styled and make-up is applied. The embalmer generally works from a photo provided by the family. The body is also dressed at this time.