Contemporary Scientific and Design Analysis Applied to Traditional Surgical Instruments

G. Thomson and X. Wu (UK)


Ergonomics, surgery, safety, human factors, scalpels.


Over the last decade significant research has been carried out in developing and refining new types of surgical instrument. More traditional instruments such as scalpels, forceps and the like have however changed little over the years, with the design of this equipment often predating contemporary ergonomic and design thinking. Recently however a number of safety concerns have forced a rethink on how fundamental surgical equipment is designed. In the case of surgical scalpels disposability and sharps safety have come to the fore. This paper summarises investigations into how safety related design changes have been interpreted by a number of manufacturers. Physical analysis, computer modeling and practical human factors trials were performed to determine whether these design changes have opened an opportunity to rethink the design of traditional instruments or whether the incorporation of safety features compromise ergonomic efficiency. Results indicate that the safety changes can have both positive and negative impact on the ergonomics of the devices. More significantly the external pressures from safety related policies could act as a catalyst to force re evaluation of the conservative view of traditional surgical products.

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