Scalpel 05 Parts

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Scalpel 05 Parts

This subsection has text and images from an interactive multimedia training program on basic 
surgical skills called PrimeSkills in Surgery.
You can use this subsection on its own or follow the whole program (further details at the end of 
this subsection).





A scalpel consists of a handle and a blade.


Let us start with the handle.

The handle is usually the size of a hand to support the fingers, thumb and palm.


Scalpels for incising deep structures, such as the bile duct, have a longer handle.


The handles have flat sides and tops for the surgeon to use the table knife grip and pen grip comfortably.

113000512-Flatsides- -top.jpg

There are roughened areas to give extra grip for the digits.

There is a bayonet fittings for the attachment of disposable blades.


Very small scalpels, such as the Beaver scalpel for iridectomies, have a round cross section handle to allow rotation between finger

and thumb.

They also have a threaded collar on the handle to hold the blade.


Most scalpels have a detachable disposable blade which fits onto the reusable handle.


The rear end of a disposable blade runs obliquely.

It fits into the bayonet fitting where there is an oblique recess in the handle.


This locks the blade in position when the blade is slotted into the grooves of the bayonet fitting.

The recess and the grooves on the reusable handle means that the blade can only be fitted on one side of the handle, with the blade

in one position.

Make sure that the blade is the correct way round on the bayonet fitting.


The disposable blade sometimes wobbles in the handles.

This can make cutting feel a little insecure.

In contrast, disposable scalpels have a blade firmly bonded onto the handle.

The blade does not wobble, but the handles, usually plastic, may feel rather flimsy.



The shape, size, strength, sharpness and the weight of a blade are specifically tuned to fit in with the planned function of the


Everyone is familiar with the functions of a kitchen knife for:


Chopping, carving, peeling, gouging, scoring, fileting, spreading and sawing.

These functions lead to a typical kitchen knife being long, strong with a straightish, thin blade, moderately sharp, with a point

and a long life.


In contrast, surgical cutting is quite different.

It is the equivalent to marquetry, carried out, not on a hard surface such as wood, but on a very delicate soft object rather like a


As a result, the scalpel blade is small, broad bladed, fully curved, very sharp, minimally pointed, light and likely to become blunt

after a single use.


It is made of very thin metal.

There is a large variety of shapes and sizes of scalpel blade within these limits.

They reflect specialised surgical uses.

Also, they reflect the subjective nature of the feel and balance and familiarity, which lead to surgical contentment.

There is a generally agreed numbered list of blade shapes

The smaller the blade, the tighter the curvature of the incision.


The bigger the blade, the deeper and faster the incision and the greater number of structures being cut by the blade at any

one time.

Also the greater the minimum radius of curvature of incisions.


For incising the skin and excising skin lesions, the small No 15 blade is perfectly satisfactory.


For hospital surgery, the medium No 10 and a large No 22 blade will cover most operations.

113000532-10- -22-Blades.jpg

A sharp pointed No 11 blade or the very small No 1 Beaver blade are useful for making small stab incisions.

113000534-No-11- -Beaver.jpg


Scalpels are very efficient cutting tools, and as such are very dangerous.

They need to be handled safely and with great respect at all times.

Not only is the patient at risk of accidental cuts, but also the surgeon, the rest of the scrub team, not to mention the waste

disposal staff. And users of this program are included.

Start now with safety rules at the practice bench:

Use only one scalpel at a time.

Keep a scalpel count.

Keep a special container for the scalpel.


Always know where the scalpel is.

Put used scalpel blades in proper disposal containers.


Next subsection, click on Scalpel 06 How scalpels work
Last subsection, click on  Scalpel 04 Introduction 
Surgical Education and Training page, click on Surgical Education and Training
Whole program on WikiSurgery, click on PrimeSkills in Surgery
Whole program on CD-ROM, click on Michael Edwards