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What are Dissecting Scissors?

Jessica Gore
Jessica Gore

Dissecting scissors are medical instruments used for cutting anatomical structures in a medical or laboratory setting. Usually made of stainless steel or titanium for easy sterilization, dissecting scissors are usually sharper and more durable than ordinary kitchen scissors. Higher end versions may have tungsten-carbine blade inserts, which extends the useful life of the scissors by preventing premature dulling. Among the many varieties available, the choice of dissecting scissors is often determined by two variables — the nature of the material being cut, and its accessibility.

Heavier blades are reserved for cutting tough tissues like tendons and ligaments, while lighter blades are used with delicate structures, such as the tissues of the eye. Blades of all sizes are available straight, angled, or curved. Curved blades are often preferred due to their ability to reach difficult points, and to provide a better view of the working area. The tips of dissecting scissors can be either blunt, to prevent tissue damage, or pointed for precision work. Similarly, handles can be either elongated for deep tissue access, or shorter, for surface work.


The lightest dissecting scissors, such as iris and tenotomy scissors, are usually designed for use in ophthalmology. Iris scissors are fine and sharp-tipped, and are normally reserved for the most meticulous work. Tenotomy scissors are similar in size and purpose, but have blunt tips that push tissues aside rather than piercing and damaging them.

Metzenbaum scissors were developed by an American oral and reconstructive surgeon by the same name. They are somewhat heavier in design than the ocular scissors, and are usually used for accessing small structures just under the skin. The blades are curved, narrow, and blunt-tipped, and the handles are elongated. This combination of features makes these scissors well-suited for work on hard-to-reach areas of the mouth and face.

Mayo scissors are heavy and blunt-tipped, and are usually reserved for cutting fascia and thick ligaments. In addition to this intended purpose, Mayo scissors are often the style of choice for cutting sutures and bandages. Like many other types of dissecting scissors, Mayo scissors are available with either straight or curved blades.

Sistrunk scissors, also known as crown and collar scissors, are sturdier than Metzenbaum or Mayo scissors and are distinguished by their short, broad blades. While somewhat limited by the shape of the blades, they can be effective at cutting materials too heavy for other styles. These scissors are normally reserved for work such as the dissection of bony structures, opening of fibrous joint capsules, and cutting thick fascia.

Dissecting scissors come in both disposable and reusable models. Disposable scissors can usually be purchased for under $10 US Dollars (USD). Reusable scissors, built for sturdiness and easy sterilization, can cost significantly more. Both varieties can usually be purchased at medical supply outlets or through online retailers.

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