Infobox Tool
name = Scalpel

image size = 175px
caption = Various scalpels
other_name =
used_with = Stencil
classification = Cutting tool
related =Lancet
Utility knife
Laser scalpel
A scalpel is a small but extremely sharp knife used for surgery, anatomical dissection, and various arts and crafts. Scalpels may be disposable or re-usable. Re-usable scalpels can have attached, resharpenable blades or, more commonly, non-attached, replaceable blades. Disposable scalpels usually have a plastic handle with an extensible blade (like a utility knife) and are used once, then the entire instrument discarded.

Scalpel blades are usually of hardened and tempered steel. Medical blades are made of high carbon steel, while craft blades can be made of stainless steel; in addition, titanium, ceramic, diamond and even obsidian knives are not unknown. For example, when performing surgery under MRI guidance, metallic blades are unusable (the steel blades would be drawn to the magnets) or may cause image artifacts. Alternatives to scalpels in surgical applications include electrocautery and lasers.

Surgical scalpels

Surgical scalpels consist of two parts, a blade and a handle. The handles are reusable, with the blades being replaceable. In medical applications, each blade is only used once, (even if just for a single, small cut). Medical scalpel handles come in two basic types. The first is a flat handle used in the #3 and #4 handles. The #7 handle is more like a long writing pen, rounded at the front and flat at the back. A #4 handle is larger than a #3, and while some blades fit both others are too large or small and can only fit one or the other. The following table of blades is incomplete and some blades listed may work with handles not specified here.

Gripping a medical scalpel

;Palmar grip:Also called the "dinner knife" grip. The handle is held with the second through fourth fingers and secured along the base of the thumb, with the index finger extended along the top rear of the blade and the thumb along the side of the handle. This grip is best for initial incisions and larger cuts.

;Pencil grip:Best used for more precise cuts with smaller blades (e.g. #15) and the #7 handle. The scalpel is held with the tips of the first and second fingers and the tip of the thumb with the handle resting on the "anatomical snuff box," at the fleshy base of the index finger and thumb. Care should be taken not to allow the handle to rest too far along the index finger as this promotes an unstable grip and cramped fingers. This is widely considered the non standard grip by the medical professionals, despite its more practical usage.

afety scalpels

In the last decade, a rising awareness of the dangers of sharps in a medical environment has led to the development of various methods of protecting healthcare workers from accidental cuts and puncture wounds. According to the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) as many as 1,000 people each day are subject to accidental needle sticks and lacerations while providing medical care [] . Companies like Jai Surgicals,Bard-Parker and Shippert Medical Technologies offer lines of retractible-blade scalpels which protect users by covering the blade when not in use. Some such scalpels are disposable and others feature replaceable blades on re-usable metal handles.

Graphic design and arts and crafts blades

Graphical and model-making scalpels tend to have round handles, with textured grips (either knurled metal or soft plastic). These are often called by the name of the most well-known manufacturer of graphic arts blades, X-Acto knives. The blade is usually flat and straight, allowing it to be run easily against a straightedge to produce straight cuts.

There are many kinds of graphic arts blades, the most common around the graphic design studio is the #11 blade which is very similar to a #11 surgical blade (q.v.). Other blade shapes are used for wood carving, cutting leather and heavy fabric, etc.


A lancet is similar to a scalpel but with a double-edged blade.

Ancient scalpels

Ancient Egyptians made incisions for embalming with scalpels of sharpened Obsidian, a material that is still sometimes used in modern times.

Indian Ayurveda medicine mentions the use of sharp bamboo splinters.

ee also

*Laser scalpel


*cite paper
title = Master Catalog
author = Techni-Tool
version = 109-EP
date = April 2007
url =
format = parts catalog

External links

* [ of lancet]
* [ How to use a scalpel] on Wikisurgery

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • scalpel — [ skalpɛl ] n. m. • 1539 scalpelle; scapel v. 1370; var. scalpre; rare av. XVIIIe; lat. scalpellum, de scalprum, de scalpere « graver, tailler » ♦ Chir. Petit couteau à manche plat destiné aux opérations chirurgicales, aux dissections. Incision… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • scalpel — SCALPÉL, scalpele, s.n. Bisturiu cu tăişul convex, folosit la disecţie. Trimis de MihaelaStan, 11.08.2003. Sursa: DLRC  SCALPÉL, scalpele, s.n. (Adesea fig.) Cuţitaş cu lamă ascuţită, curbă, cu unul sau cu două tăişuri, folosit la disecţiile… …   Dicționar Român

  • Scalpel — Scal pel (sk[a^]l p[e^]l), n. [L. scalpellum, dim. of scalprum a knife, akin to scalpere to cut, carve, scrape: cf. F. scalpel.] (Surg.) A small knife with a thin, keen blade, used by surgeons, and in dissecting. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Scalpel — Un scalpel est un couteau très pointu utilisé pour la dissection et dans divers métiers artisanaux. Voir aussi Articles connexes Bistouri : instrument utilisé en chirurgie …   Wikipédia en Français

  • scalpel — (n.) 1742, from L. scalpellum, dim. of scalprum knife, chisel, tool for scraping or cutting, from scalpere to carve, cut, related to sculpere to carve, from PIE root * (s)kel to cut, cleave …   Etymology dictionary

  • scalpel — ► NOUN ▪ a knife with a small sharp blade, as used by a surgeon. ORIGIN Latin scalpellum small chisel , from scalpere to scratch …   English terms dictionary

  • scalpel — [skal′pəl] n. [L scalpellum, dim. of scalprum, a knife < scalpere, to cut < IE base * (s)kel > SCALE2] a small, light, straight knife with a very sharp blade, used by surgeons and in anatomical dissections …   English World dictionary

  • scalpel — (skal pèl) s. m. 1°   Instrument à lame fixe, pointue, à un ou deux tranchants, dont on se sert pour les dissections anatomiques. •   Il fut souvent réduit à se rabattre sur les animaux et principalement sur les chiens, qui sont les plus exposés… …   Dictionnaire de la Langue Française d'Émile Littré

  • SCALPEL — s. m. T. d Anat. Couteau d une forme particulière, dont on se sert pour disséquer, etc. Un bon scalpel. Bien manier le scalpel …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 7eme edition (1835)

  • SCALPEL — n. m. Sorte de couteau pointu, à lame fixe, à un ou deux tranchants, dont on se sert pour disséquer. Le scalpel du chirurgien. Fig., Le scalpel de la critique …   Dictionnaire de l'Academie Francaise, 8eme edition (1935)

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