Surgical instrument

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A surgical instrument is a specially designed tool or device for performing specific actions during a surgery or operation, such as modifying biological tissue, although such instruments can also be used in other activities. For example, forceps can be used to hold tubing or retrieve non-magnetic items from hard to reach places, while scalpels are good at cutting soft materials.

General characteristics

Surgical instruments are commonly made of hypoallergenic or surgical grade stainless steel. They are tough and cannot be bent easily, while displaying good chemical resistance to most reagents, except some acids, halogens, etc.

Common surgical instruments

Allis clamp

Can be used to grab various soft objects in a stronger grip, when you don't need to worry about damaging them.

Aortic cross-clamp

An aortic cross-clamp is a surgical instrument used in cardiac surgery, but can also be used to manipulate items in a bent location.

Bandage scissors

Bandage scissors are angled tip scissors, with a blunt tip on the bottom blade, which helps in cutting bandages without gouging the skin.

Good for cutting parafilm and tape.

Bulldogs forceps

Bulldogs forceps or bulldog clamps are fine-tipped, spring-loaded forceps useful for holding tissue or another material, without having to use the hand to apply pressure.


Useful for scraping off crystals from a dish.

Debakey forceps

A special type of tweezers, with serrations, useful for grabbing. Some models have bent blades, for easier handling.


Good when searching in hard to reach places, dark areas, or in stuck reaction flask if possible.

Foerster clamp

A Foerster clamp is a surgical clamp with a round eyelet.

Hartmann alligator forceps

The Hartmann alligator forceps or Hartmann foreign body forceps, are medical forceps for removing foreign bodies, best from vessels with small orifices, where other tweezers cannot reach.


Good for grabbing materials and holding it in a lock.

Hypodermic needles

Used in combination with syringes.

Iris scissors

Iris scissors are scissors with very small and an extremely sharp and fine tip, useful for cutting tape and strings.


A mallet is a kind of hammer, often made of rubber or sometimes wood, that is smaller than a maul or beetle, and usually has a relatively large head. Useful to unstuck frozen ground glass joints.

Mayo scissors

Scissors useful when cutting thick paper.

Metzenbaum scissors

Similar to Iris scissors, can be used for fine cutting.

Pennington clamp

A Pennington clamp, also known as a Duval clamp, is a surgical clamp with a triangular eyelet.


A scalpel, lancet or (depending on the type) hobby knife, is a small and extremely sharp bladed instrument used for surgery, anatomical dissection, and various arts and crafts. Scalpels may be single-use disposable or re-usable.

Scalpels can be used to cut soft materials, like alkali metals or chromatography plates.

Senn retractor

A type of medical retractor, one end is typically L shaped, and the other has three bent prongs. The pronged ends come in sharp and dull tips. Useful for scraping solids from plates, such as crystals.


An acoustic medical device for auscultation, or listening to the internal sounds of an animal or human body, can be used to listen for various sounds.


Used to inject or draw liquids.


Can be used to grab soft items in a stronger grip, when you don't need to worry about damaging them.


Can be used to grab objects in a stronger grip, when you don't need to worry about damaging them.

Yankauer suction tip

A suctioning tool, designed to allow effective suction without damaging surrounding tissue in surgery, can be used to aspire liquids.


Surgical instruments can be bought from medical or lab suppliers, or they can be found online.

Scalpels can be found in some hardware and home-improvement stores.

Sometimes you might find such items in scrap yards or in other junk yards. Make sure to sterilize them properly before use, but only if they weren't inside medical biohazard containers/bags. Do NOT reuse instruments that display significant biological contamination, as you do not know what biological organisms may be present on said items.

Handling and storage

Surgical items made of metal should not be exposed to acids or halogens.

As mentioned before, do not reuse contaminated instruments.

See also


Relevant Sciencemadness threads