Tested Benefits, Obsidian scalpel

A comparison of obsidian and surgical steel scalpel wound healing in rats.


Department of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine, Baltimore.


There are several anecdotal clinical articles claiming wound healing and scar superiority using obsidian (volcanic glass) scalpels. In order to determine if skin incisions made with obsidian were superior to those made with standard surgical steel, wound tensile strength, scar width, and histology were assessed in 40 adult male Sprague-Dawley rats. Each rat received two parallel 8-cm dorsal skin incisions, one with an obsidian scalpel and the other with a surgical steel scalpel (no. 15 blade). Data were analyzed by ANOVA. Tensile strength of the two wound types was not different at 7, 14, 21, and 42 days. Scar width, however, was significantly less in the obsidian wounds at 7, 10, and 14 days (p < 0.005). At 21 days, scar width was not different in the two groups. At 42 days, all wounds were barely detectable, thus precluding scar width analysis. A blinded histologic review suggested that obsidian wounds contained fewer inflammatory cells and less granulation tissue at 7 days.

Obsidian or Stainless Steel?

Traditionally, physicians have used inexpensive stainless-steel scalpel blades for surgical
procedures. Steel scalpels cost about $2 each, and surgeons use them just once and throw
them away. Obsidian scalpels are more expensive—about $100 each—but they can be used
many times before they lose their keen edge. And obsidian scalpel blades can be 100 times
sharper than traditional scalpel blades!
During surgery, steel scalpels actually tear the skin apart. Obsidian scalpels divide the skin
and cause much less damage. Some plastic surgeons use obsidian blades to make
extremely fine incisions that leave almost no scarring. An obsidian-scalpel incision heals
more quickly because the blade causes less damage to the skin and other tissues.
Many patients have allergic reactions to mineral components in steel blades. These patients
often do not have an allergic reaction when obsidian scalpels are used. Given all of these
advantages, it is not surprising that some physicians have made the change to obsidian

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