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What to look for in surgical scissors

Most surgical scissors are produced with various blade definitions, depending on the surgical specialty and the material being cut.

What to look for in surgical scissors

The three primary blade definitions are:

  1. Stainless Blades: Scissors with stainless blades are the most common. The entire scissor is made out of the same metal (stainless steel) and there are no distinctly identifiable coloured rings.
  2. Tungsten Carbide Blades: Inserted only along the cutting edge surface of the blade is the metal, Tungsten Carbide. These Tungsten Carbide strips are much harder than stainless steel. Once sharpened, these Tungsten Carbide blades stay sharper longer and are attached to the stainless steel scissor via welding or vacuum brazing. These Tungsten Carbide “strips” cannot be replaced once life-worn. Tungsten Carbide surgical scissors have gold rings to distinguish this design.
  3. Black-Handled: These scissors are known as Microgrind or Super Cut scissors. The unique feature of these surgical scissors is the sharpening technique employed on one of the blades. This scissor has a blade that will lance/slice through tissue with its knife-edge blade. All other scissors crush, resulting in cutting, whereas the black-handled scissor slices tissue. Black-handled surgical scissors require special sharpening techniques and must be resharpened three to four times per year. The identifying feature of these scissors is the black coloured rings.

Surgical Scissor Points of Inspection

Inspecting your surgical instruments is an important process. Every surgical instrument has unique points of inspection, and proper examination of your instruments can help with surgical instrument maintenance and repairs. Below are points of inspection for surgical scissors.

  • Blunt tips: Tips should be rounded to prevent puncturing and tearing. Inspect tips for corrosion and burrs.
  • Sharp tips: Scissor tips are very fragile. Make sure both tips are present. Inspect for bent tips, damage and burrs.
  • Blades: Inspect blades for chips or burrs on the cutting surface. If scissor has Tungsten Carbide blades (gold rings), inspect the blade insert for crack and the union where Tungsten Carbide meets the stainless steel for signs of pitting.
  • Screw/hinge area: Inspect both sides for the presence of cracking and blood/bioburden trapped in the screw head. The screw/hinge area is the area of the scissor most prone to trapped blood/bioburden and staining.
  • Rings: Inspect the rings for cracks.
  • Scissor action: To inspect the cutting action of a scissor, simply open and close the scissor three to four times. This opening and closing action should feel smooth. The scissor action should not be loose, tight and grinding, or jump. The scissor action test is important, as the initial action of a scissor is the surgeon’s first impression.

Post-operative Care of Surgical Scissors

Separate the rings and being the decontamination process within 20 minutes after surgery. The use of spray-on moisturisers such as Spectra-Moist is also a very effective way to prevent blood from drying on surgical scissors. Soak scissor in an enzymatic solution or place a moist towel saturated with water over the instruments.

How to Properly Test the Sharpness of Surgical Scissors

It's important to maintain the sharpness of your surgical instruments. Developing a schedule for testing the sharpness of your surgical scissors is a necessary routine for all hospitals.

Test Your Scissors:

  • Step 1: Using the right thumb and middle (or ring) finger, make sure scissors are held like a surgeon.
  • Step 2: Cut through material using ½ of blade to cut all the way through to the distal tip.
  • Step 3: After several cuts, extract scissors. If scissors do not pinch or grab material, scissors are sharp.
  • Step 4: The final test is how the scissors feel. Scissors should open and close smoothly and should not “jump”, grind or feel loose.

Facts about Surgical Scissors:

Surgical scissors are designed to cut, incised and/or dissect tissue.

  • All scissors are designed to be re-sharpened.
  • Scissors go dull at the distal tip first.
  • Scissors crack at the hinge/screw area.
  • The weakest part of the scissor is the distal tip.
  • The feel of the scissor should be a smooth “slide” as you opened close the scissor.
  • Gold-handled (Tungsten Carbide) scissors do stay sharper longer, however, you cannot replace the Tungsten Carbide edges.
  • Black-handled scissors (Microgrind/SuperCut) are the sharpest scissors available, however they go dull the quickest.
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