A surgical scalpel also known as lancet is a small medical instrument with an extremely sharp blade used for surgery. The scalpel may be reusable or single use/disposable. In re-usable scalpels, the blades are either permanently attached which can be sharpened or more commonly can be removed and replaced. The disposable ones are with plastic handles and extensible blades like that of a utility knife. The individual blades of the scalpel are packed sterile or non sterile pouches. The scalpel when double edged, are called lancets. Historically, blades were made of silver, due to the antimicrobial property of the metal. Today, the blades of the scalpel are made of stainless steel, tempered steel, high carbon steel, ceramic, titanium and even diamond, obsidian. The selection of the material of blade for surgery depends upon the procedure- for example; steel blade cannot be used MRI procedure as the magnet would attract the steel. Some manufacturers coat the blade with zirconium nitride for improvement of edge retention and sharpness. Some are even polymer coated to enhance lubricity during cut. An alternative to surgical blades is lasers and electrocautery.
The handle is named after the founders of the Bard-Parker Company - Charles Russell Bard and Morgan Parker as "B.P. handle". In 1915 Morgan Parker patented the 2-piece scalpel design and Bard-Parker invented a method of cold sterilization which would blunt the blades, as the heat-based method previously did. The blades are manufactured in accordance to the size of the handle.
Different grips of a surgical scalpel
History of surgical scalpels
Scalpels have been used for surgical purposes across the globe from ancient times. Obsidian scalpels older have been in use from before 2100 BC in a Bronze Age settlement in Turkey. Skulls of that era reveal signs of brain surgery. Indian surgeon Susruta used to perform various surgeries using scalpels in 8th century B.C. Ancient Egyptians made incisions on dead bodies for embalming with obsidian scalpels.
The medical writings of ancient Greece mentions use of scalpels in 500 BC. Ancient Romans used various surgical instruments, including scalpels. Indian Ayurvedic medicine talks of the use of sharp bamboo splinters, which can be compared to surgical scalpel.
Scalpel injuries- with growing concerns of the danger of sharp instruments for medical use, various methods have been developed to prevent scalpel injury of healthcare workers including cuts and puncture wounds which can be potentially life threatening.