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What are the Different Types of Scalpel Handles?

By Jen Ainoa
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A scalpel is a small knife with a thin blade that is most often used for making incisions during surgery or dissection. The two primary parts are the blade, which is needed for cutting, and the scalpel handle, which is needed to hold the blade. Scalpel handles are usually stainless steel or plastic, with stainless steel being much more expensive and often advertised as being of surgical quality. Scalpels handles vary in length, but are generally about 5 inches (from 12cm to 13 cm) long. Some scalpel handles have tiny screws that must be removed to replace the scalpel blades, while others have a snap-on feature for securing the blades to eliminate the need for screws.

Scalpel handles are distinguished by number rather than by a name. The most common scalpel handles are the standard three, four, and seven models. The differences in these scalpel handles are in the size, the shape, the presence and size of ridges to improve grip, and whether the handle is made of chrome or stainless steel. Some scalpel handles also have a metric ruler engraved into them.

Purchasing stainless steel scalpel handles and replacement blades for a high school or middle school science lab is more cost effective in the long run than purchasing disposable scalpels. This is because students learning to do dissections tend to break a lot of blades, and blades are much cheaper to replace than disposable scalpels. Stainless steel scalpel handles also are more durable and easier to clean than plastic handles and will likely not need to be replaced for a number of years. Busy teachers needing to replace broken blades in a hurry may appreciate the scalpel handles that fit snap-on blades as opposed to the type that require the removal of the tiny screw.

In the medical profession, the preferred scalpels are one-piece units that each have a steel blade permanently attached to the plastic handle. These scalpels are popular because they are both sterile and disposable. Disposable scalpels, though not having removable handles, have the same basic shape, size, and design as the stainless steel scalpel handles with replaceable blades.

The easiest way to shop for traditional surgeon’s scalpel handles is to check out medical supply or scientific supply companies. This is usually easiest to do online or via catalogs, where the selection is likely to be the best. Prices vary according to size and style.

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