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Recommended Practices for Macerating Human Thyroid Cartilage

NCJ Number
Journal of Forensic Sciences Dated: 2020
Date Published

Since visible abnormalities on the thyroid cartilage may be indicative of perimortem trauma, including fractures or sharp force trauma, and during autopsy the thyroid cartilage must be freed of surrounding soft tissue before these abnormalities can be clearly observed, the current study first experimentally tested several processing methods on pig ears to narrow down which might work best to process human thyroid cartilage.


Several methods in the categories of hot water maceration, chemical/enzyme maceration, and dermestid beetles were then tested on a sample of 37 human thyroid cartilages. An adapted 22-point scoring system was used to score the efficacy of each processing method. Chemical maceration using bleach was found to be the best method for removing surrounding tissue from thyroid cartilage, with Arm & Hammer powdered laundry detergent as a close second. These methods are inexpensive, quick, and easy to implement, making them a simple addition to busy medical examiner’s offices or forensic anthropology laboratories. (publisher abstract modified)

Date Published: January 1, 2020