A scalpel, or lancet, is a small and extremely sharp bladed instrument used for surgery, anatomical dissection, and also for various arts and crafts (called a hobby knife). Scalpels may be single-use disposable or re-usable, and recently Safety Scalpels are the norm in the Operating Rooms. Re-usable scalpels can have permanently attached blades that can be sharpened or, more commonly, removable single-use blades. Disposable scalpels usually have a plastic handle with an extensible blade (like a utility knife) and are used once, then the entire instrument is discarded. Scalpel blades are usually individually packed in sterile pouches but are also offered non-sterile. Double-edged scalpels are referred to as “lancets”.
Scalpel blades are usually made of hardened and tempered steel, stainless steel, or high carbon steel; in addition, titanium, ceramic, diamond and even obsidian knives are not uncommon. For example, when performing surgery under MRI guidance, steel blades are unusable (the blades would be drawn to the magnets, or may cause image artifacts). Historically, the preferred material for surgical scalpels was silver, on account of its antimicrobial properties (although the mechanics were not understood at the time). Scalpel blades are also offered by select manufacturers with a zirconium nitride-coated edge to improve sharpness and edge retention. Others manufacture blades that are polymer-coated to enhance lubricity during a cut. Alternatives to scalpels in surgical applications include electrocautery and lasers.
Reusable handle (top) and disposable scalpels (bottom):
Surgical scalpels consist of two parts, a blade and a handle. The handles are often reusable, with the blades being replaceable. In medical applications, each blade is only used once (even if just for a single, small cut).
History and Use of Scalpels in Surgery
The Harmonic Scalpel is a laparoscopic surgical instrument that is changing the way that doctors perform surgery, allowing surgeons to be more efficient during surgery and in part decreasing patients' recovery time.
The all-in-one Harmonic Scalpel is made up of a generator, a cutting instrument, a foot pedal, a hand-switch, and a hand-held ultrasonic transducer; it uses an ultrasound to help it work. Having all of these features allows surgeons to use this scalpel for both open and endoscopic procedures, and for dental, ophthalmic, and many other purposes.
The Harmonic Scalpel is a great asset to the medical world, providing an option for surgeons to help cut back on the number of instruments required to perform a given procedure. Contact your medical provider today to find out if they will be using this scalpel in any upcoming surgeries you may have.