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August 18 , 2017

Five Reasons, For Patient And Staff Safety, Surgeons Should Avoid Safety Scalpels.

Safety scalpels have been developed in response to a call for a better management of sharps in the healthcare industry and have been increasingly adopted under the (mis)conception of being “safe”.

Here are some of the top reasons why you should avoid safety scalpels.

  1. Filmsy build quality and limited range of sizes and shapes

Let’s first look at how the build of a safety scalpel reduces its performance.  Most safety scalpels are made from a very lightweight plastic material with an active (manual) retractable system, which affect the grip and precision that a surgeon requires in the operating room (OR). The limited range of sizes and shapes of safety scalpels also means that surgeons may not always be able to find a safety scalpel with the right balance, feel and length.

  1. Obstruct surgeon’s field of vision

Additionally, the bulky shape of the safety scalpel often obstructs the surgeon’s field of vision during an operation. This is a big patient safety concern. It does not occur with traditional scalpel handles.

  1. Increased risk for staff injuries

In addition to the performance issues of safety scalpels, there is a potential risk of injuries associated with the deployment and accidental detachment of the blade from the safety scalpel device. There have been reports of disengagement of the blades and consequential injuries to nurses on duty within ORs. Published reports suggest that the so-called safety scalpel can cause up to 4 times more injuries to staff than the traditional scalpel handle.

  1. Evidence-Based medicine

In some countries such as Canada, regional regulatory bodies have even mandated their use in hospital settings. There seems to be a common belief that the use of safety scalpels reflects a much-needed behavioural change to reduce injuries associated with the use of sharps.

There is no proof that safety scalpels are safe! Research suggested that the injury incidence from safety scalpels was at least twice as high as the incidence from the traditional reusable metal handle1. This is telling us that the name of “safety scalpel” is a misnomer.  A more accurate name for these scalpels would be “retractable scalpels” or “sheathed scalpels”, rather than safety scalpels1.

  1. Safer alternatives are available

Published papers indicate that when a single-handed scalpel blade remover is combined with a Hands Free Passing Technique (HFPT),  this can be up to five times safer than using a safety scalpel. Qlicksmart’s single-handed blade removers comply with OSHA requirements and many other regulations such as AU/NZS 3825:1998 around the world.

If safety scalpels are influencing your ability as a surgeon to perform your operations, or you are concerned about the increase risk of injuries for your surgical team, then you should avoid using safety scalpel and consider an alternative pathway for increased safety.

Reference

  1. Michael Sinnott, Ramon Shaban, “Scalpel Safety,” not “Safety Scalpel”: A New Paradigm in Staff Safety, Perioperative Nursing Clinics, Volume 5, Issue 1, 2010, Pages 59-67, ISSN 1556-7931, http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.cpen.2009.11.001.

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