The Scalpel

The most interesting part of 1st MBBS course is dissection.You’ll be provided with a Cadaver ( a dead body intended for dissection) and you have to dissect the concerned region and identify the structures( blood vessels, nerves, organs) you are supposed to see. At the dissection hall, MBBS students use a dissection set which should contain at least a scalpel, toothed forceps, toothless forceps and a blunt knife.Dissection is a kind of dress rehearsal for a surgery.
Today’s hero is the scalpel.The scalpel is a wonderful tool, a type 3 lever. It is not for pressing. It is for drawing across the field of skin. I always marvel at its power- cold, gleaming and silent. The scalpel is held in a special way, not palmed, nor gripped, nor grasped but lightly with the tips of the fingers- like holding the bow of a violin or a tulip. In a living body, blood chases the scalpel wherever it is withdrawn, but on a Cadaver, it is safe and easy to use it as it does not bleed.
The scalpel is made of steel. It is in two parts- the handle and the blade. At one end of the handle is a narrow prong upon which the blade is slid and then snapped to place. The handle is blind and decapitated without the blade, but once the blade is slid on it and clicked to position, it is ready for use. The spent scalpel sits silently on the dissection table once its purpose is done.
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I encounter a curious problem while fixing the blade on the handle. Every time I fix it, the sharp end of the blade would be pressed on my thumb. A thin streak of blood and a cut on my thumb would be the result. So, you could tell how many blades I fixed that week, just by counting the number of line-like wounds on my left thumb.
I share my dissection table with a girl who is very enthusiastic about dissection. She knows the tips and tricks which one could gain only by experience. I love working with her because she finishes dissection within minutes, which would otherwise have taken hours. The saved time could be productively used for chit- chatting, or in my case, writing this blog post.
One day I saw this girl fixing her blade with ease. She simply slid the blade around the handle and pressed it. Click! it stood at the right place.No hurt.
“Wow..How do you do that ?”, I exclaimed, open mouthed.
“Figure it out” was the answer.
So the next day I bought two new blades and started practising to fix it the way my skilled friend did. It was amusing for the other dissectors to watch me sitting at a corner of the hall and fixing blades while they prepared for the spotting exam. Some of the dissectors were kind enough to offer me their blade and handle to work upon. My skilled friend was trying hard to stifle her laugh while she unearthed every damn nerve and vessel I had no idea of. I went about with this business for about a week during every dissection hour until my thumb became absolutely raw.
Finally I couldn’t take it any longer.I approached my skilled friend and said, ” I give up.How the hell you fix the blade without hurting your thumb?”
Her answer was interesting- “Who said it doesn’t hurt? It hurts me too..” and showed me two thin parallel streaks of wound on her right thumb.

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25 thoughts on “The Scalpel

  1. hmm the initial part of the post sounded like a theory class on Scalpel…she just have 2 scars… so after two scars she figured out how to do it perfectly….

  2. hi…. i feel like my first yr in mbbs was a long time ago… in fact, it was a long time ago. loved it. including the formalin smelling cadaver and the never-ending biochem cycles. enjoy ur days gal… it will be the most memorable phase of ur life…. btw, really like ur posts.

  3. tada…music playz…n here's my first visit !!! n herez a HI 4 YE…n cool…!!! first year Medico ha..!! so de journey begins!!! gr8…know what de first thing that pierce in wen my grey cells yell out Dissection is de Smell of formaline!!! a thuddddd sound was heard twice on our first day of dissection…2 wer down..a guy n a gal..!!! ;)type 3 lever ha!! hmmm

  4. bak…went thru random posts..interesting read i shud say…n hey do pay more attention 2 poetry…my olfactory bulb lit up..it says 'i smelt potential'…ciao 4 now..n oops..5got…which MC??Kerala??

  5. @Meow,I too feared dead bodies before I joined medicine..Now it is a part of our studies..The best thing about 1st MBBS is dissection..:)You too will like it if you choose to learn it.

  6. Very good Netha……brought the nostalgic memories of long lost years in dissection hall…..i should add most of the campus loves in med school also starts in this great hall!….nice read Netha.

  7. @ Suree,Well, you got to know more about the kind of instruments we medicos use..I didn't intend to make it so theoretical..I had to explain about the scalpel just to make the readers understand the rest of the post..By now, I have learned to do it perfectly, without hurting my thumb.

  8. @ Vaisakh,Finally you have come here to visit my space..It will rain today..Although I have learned to fix the blade on the scalpel, I don't do much of the dissection fearing that I'll cut every vessel..You know, I even cut the sciatic nerve..Hope our Professor doesn't read this..

  9. @ 789,Really??I hardly enjoy these days..We are overloaded with work..Exams after exams..The formalin smell..Oh..I smell of formalin even at home..And the biochem cycles..I forget them as soon as the exam is over..

  10. @ Kochu,Thanks for visiting my place..We heard many thuds during our first days at dissection hall..About 10 were down..Yeah, scalpel is a type 3 lever, you can ask your engineering friends for confirmation..

  11. @ kochu,I'm studying in Govt. Medical college, Calicut..Thanks, I'm elated..I'll attempt more poetry..Read your post..Looks like you are pouring all your negativity into your blog that you can be more positive in life..Anyway, well written..Keep blogging..

  12. Hi took me back 25yrs to may be the same hall you are dissecting .We used scalpel with fixed blades then. Still following Cunninghams? Yes dissection is fun doing things in a large group with your 'BODY' mates

  13. @ Charakan,Thanks for reading my blog post, sir.Yeah, we are still following Cunninghams..But we occasionally sneak in text books of other authors to make the dissection easier. I am having fun with my bodymates..We just had a table shuffling and got a new bunch of table mates..Everything is fun here, except for the exams..Do visit again, sir..

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