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An Overview of Surgical Cutting Tools

The tools used for cutting into a body during surgery can look similar to ordinary cutting tools that you may use in your everyday life. Sometimes they even have similar names. However, they are also different in some significant respects. For one thing, they are often made of a metal alloy, such as the stainless custom 630, that is harder and more durable than required for instruments intended for mundane tasks.

The type of tools your surgeon will use during your procedure depends on the type of operation you require. However, here are some examples of surgical cutting tools that may be put to use.


Scissors used for surgery can look similar to ordinary scissors at first glance. However, because they have very specific tasks to perform, there are also many design variations. The handles of surgical scissors may be short or long; the tips may be blunt or pointed; and the blades may be curved, angled, or straight. Surgical scissors are often named after the doctor who designed them. Metzenbaum scissors are an example that are frequently used in different procedures.

Knife Blades and Handles

Unlike ordinary knives in which the blade and the handle comprise a single, inseparable unit, surgical knife blades are detachable from their handles so that they can be swapped out and changed. Surgical knives are also called scalpels, and they have been in use since at least prehistoric times, when the blades were made of stone. The earlier stone blades were first replaced with metal in about 3500 B.C.

Other Cutting Tools

There are a number of other types of cutting tools used in surgery. Examples include the following:

  • Rasp: Used to sand down bone or other hard surfaces
  • Osteotome: Used to cut into bone
  • Rongeur: Used to remove bone in small increments, or “pinches,” to avoid damage to blood vessels or nerves

Each of these tools has many different variations. This is to ensure that there is a tool for every task no matter what type of surgery is being performed.