A scalpel, or lancet, is a small and extremely sharp bladed instrument used for surgery. Scalpels may be single-use disposable or re-usable. Re-usable scalpels can have permanently attached blades that can be sharpened or, more commonly, removable single-use blades. Disposable scalpels usually have a plastic handle with an extensible blade (like a utility knife) and are used once, then the entire instrument is discarded.

Double-edged scalpels are referred to as lancets.

Types of Scalpel Blades

The No.10 blade, with its large, curved cutting edge, is one of the more traditional blade shapes used in veterinary surgery. It is generally used for making large incisions in the skin and subcutaneous tissue, as well as cutting other soft tissues.

The No.11 blade is an elongated, triangular blade sharpened along the hypotenuse edge. It has a strong, pointed tip, making it ideal for stab incisions and precise, short cuts in shallow, recessed areas. It is used in various procedures, such as the creation of incisions for chest tubes and drains, opening major blood vessels for catheter insertion (cut-downs), removing the mop ends of torn cruciate ligaments, and for meniscectomy.

The No.12 blade is a small, pointed, crescent- shaped blade sharpened along the inside edge of the curve. It is sometimes utilized as a suture cutter. Occasionally the No.12 blade is used for cat declaws and disarticulating small joints, such as those between the metacarpals, metatarsals, and phalanges during digit amputation.

The No.15 blade has a small, curved cutting edge. It is one of the most popular blades in small-animal surgery because its shape is ideal for making short and precise incisions. It is utilized in a variety of surgical procedures, including the excision of small skin lesions, organ biopsy, and neurological applications.

Many other blades exist.

Holding a 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. 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 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.