What are Metzenbaum Scissors?

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  • Written By: R.G. Blake
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2015
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Metzenbaum scissors are a type of surgical tool typically used to cut delicate soft tissues. Not only are they the most commonly used scissors for cutting tissue, but they are designed only to be used for that purpose. Because of their specific function, they sometimes are called Metzenbaum dissecting scissors.

Clinicians use them in a variety of applications including dental, obstetrical, gynecological, dermatological, ophthalmological, and veterinary procedures. In fact, they are even mentioned in popular media, including on the television show M*A*S*H, and in the movie The Man With Two Brains.

They can be made of stainless steel or from other more costly materials. Metzenbaum scissors with tungsten carbide cutting edges generally provide a finer cut and last longer than the stainless steel ones. They usually are readily recognized by their gold-plated ring handles. The most expensive type usually is made from titanium.

The scissors come in various lengths, but all have a similarly distinctive look with a long handle or shank and a shorter blade. Some are available with reusable handles and disposable tips. Right- and left-hand models usually are available.

The blades can be curved or straight, but the tips always are blunt. Most Metzenbaum scissors ranges in length from 5.5 inches (about 14 cm) to 14 inches (about 35.6 cm). So-called baby scissors are only about 4.5 inches (about 11.4 cm) long, considerably smaller than the standard size. The baby size usually makes them more effective for the most delicate procedures.


Metzenbaum scissors resemble another type of surgical scissors, the Mayo scissors. There are significant differences, however. The scissors usually are lighter, have a longer handle, and have a more slender midsection than does the Mayo. Mayo scissors often are used for cutting sutures.These scissors could be dulled by such use unless the suture is very fine.

Sometimes called Metz, Metzenbaum scissors are named after the American surgeon who designed them. Myron Firth Metzenbaum, M.D., specialized in oral and reconstructive surgery. He is remembered not only for the scissors, but also for developing a method for resetting dislocated nasal cartilage in children. He also conducted early research on radium.


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Post 3

There is another type of scissors called the metzenbaum-nelson scissors, What is the difference then?

Post 2

@everetra - I don’t blame you. It’s good to know that doctors and dentists are using advances in technology to refine basic instruments such as medical scissors.

Surgery is a delicate procedure requiring tremendous amounts of patience and the right tools for the job. I’m glad I live in the modern era, and not thousands of years ago when the ancients used simple blades to cut into the skin and perform their operations.

Post 1

Where I live there is a company that sells surgical instruments–they’re a major distributor, actually, for dental instruments across the United States. I know one of the guys who works there and he travels as a salesman, constantly on the road, peddling their products.

One of the instruments my friend sells is a tool used in root canals. It’s what’s called a file system and has a torque motor. It’s supposedly more efficient than other tools used for root canals, in that it takes fewer spins of the drill, so to speak, to accomplish the needed results.

I’m not a dentist so I don’t fully understand the explanation he gave me, except to tell him I wasn’t interested in a root canal, no matter how good the product was.

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