What are the different types of surgical scalpels?

A scalpel with a number 10 blade.

Surgical scalpels, which are essentially very sharp knives used primarily in medical procedures such as surgery and pathology, come in a wide variety of different shapes and sizes. Since scalpels usually come in two parts – blade and handle – the potential combinations are even more numerous. In all, there are 67 different types of scalpel blades and 27 different types of handles, although not all of these types are for medical purposes. In general, surgical scalpels are individually designed for specific types of surgery. For example, a scalpel with a #10 rounded blade is usually used to make incisions in the skin, while one with a #7 blade would be used for more delicate and precise incisions for internal surgery. Some types even have rulers on the handles to help accurately measure an incision.

Doctors use scalpels during surgical procedures.

The different types of surgical scalpels can be grouped into two categories: reusable and disposable scalpels. Reusable scalpels usually consist of a disposable blade attached to a reusable handle – the blades are used only once and then discarded. Disposable surgical scalpels are usually one-piece, often come with plastic handles and retractable blades, like a pocket knife. The entire scalpel is thrown away after just one use.

A laser scalpel can be used for eye surgery.

Surgical blades and similar handles are commonly identified by a number. Some handles are designed to fit a specific hand grip. For example, the #7 handle, also known as the beaver style, is shaped like a pen and is suitable for close, precise cuts; other handles, such as handle #4, are wider and flatter. A particularly common type of handle, called the #3 or Bard Parker style, has a metric ruler to measure accurate cuts. Another common type of handle is the rounded Siegel style, designed for curved incisions.

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There are 67 types of surgical scalpel blades and 27 types of handles.

Blade types come in all shapes and sizes, most of them having a triangular or crescent shape. Many types are essentially smaller or larger versions of commonly used blades. The shape of each type is designed for its main use. For example, the #10 blade has a rounded end and is mainly used to make skin incisions, while the #11 blade has a pointed end and is generally used to make puncture incisions for drainage purposes. While most blades have a single sharpened blade, there are also double-edged blades called lancets.

Blade materials may also vary. There was a time when obsidian blades were more common as they were usually cheaper to make. These days, however, most blades are made from medical-grade carbon steel. The upper blades are made of diamond.

A more advanced type of surgical scalpel is the laser scalpel, commonly used in eye surgery and neurosurgery. Currently, the most commonly used subtypes of laser scalpels are excimer, YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet), and CO2 laser scalpels.

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