Sunday, October 18, 2015

Non Glare Surgical Instruments - A Solution to A Problem That Never Existed

"That glare from those surgical instruments is blinding. I'm glad my boyfriend, the football player, gave me that tip about wearing eye black. It works like a charm."  These are the first two characters I have heard complain about surgical instrument glare, but at least they found a solution to their problem without monkeying around with the way surgical instruments are finished which was a true abomination.

It was the Summer of 1970 we were getting a new bunch of surgical residents and a new shipment of surgical instruments. We were habituated to the brilliant shine of highly polished stainless steel instruments. They were so bright they almost glowed, just like the bumper on Daddy's "57 Chevy. We thought they looked nice, the instruments NOT the Chevy and just figured they would be the forever standard in the OR. The surgeons and nurses really did like the shine. It helped delineate the separation of the tissue with the tip of the instrument for the surgeon and looked nice to the nurse when they were set up on a Mayo stand. Why fool with something that everyone likes?

One of the 10 commandments of being a scrub nurse was to NEVER pass a dirty instrument. We always kept a moist 4X4 in our left hand to buff that Babcock up to a beautiful shine before slapping it into the surgeon's hand. The proof of the cleanliness of the instrument was evidenced by it's beautiful shine. I never had a surgeon complain about an instrument being too shiny or that it was a source of glare.

Surgeon complaints about instruments usually involved issues of misaligned points or tips of the instrument, poor or stiff  joint function, and ratchets that released too easily or stiffly. The offending instrument was often "repaired" on the spot by the disgruntled surgeon who destroyed it by bending the handles to a right angle of the functional part of the instrument. This officially retired the instrument and we ordered replacement surgical instruments every Spring.

There was something new and very different with our latest shipment of  surgical instruments. Needle holders or as you whippersnapperns call them needle drivers were a dull grey color with gold handles. We did not know what to make of these bizarre (to us) non-shiny instruments. Dr. Oddo our world famous neurosurgeon was consulted and he did not know what to make of them either and suggested calling the manufacturer. We figured they had missed the polishing part of the manufacturing process and were defective. They certainly looked nasty to our shineophillic eyes.

To our utter amazement we learned these instruments were made to look like this by design. They were "Non glare instruments" and the needle drivers were the camel's nose under the tent, because soon we had non glare hemostats and assorted other permutations of their ilk. We hated them. They looked dirty and no matter how much you rubbed them with a 4X4 would not come clean. Some old time scrub nurses asked, "Can you mix these grey instruments with our polished instruments?" The non glare instruments just did not look right after years of handling the beautiful polished stainless instruments. Comingling them with bright, normal instruments seemed like a sin. Would the yucky matte finish instruments lead the shiny ones astray? We did not know, but did not want to take any chances.

By the time I retired, non glare instruments had completely taken over and most of the young whippersnapperrns looked at me like I was crazy when my reptilian brain reminisced about all the missing shiny stuff. Bright instruments, Gleaming terrazzo floors, brilliant ceramic tiled walls all replaced by miserable matte dull finishes.

A beautiful shiny, proud Babcock


Non-glare. That is one nasty dirty looking Babcock!




  1. So, if you go to Amazon and plug in babcock forceps, are the ones that come up super polished or are they the matte finish?

  2. So, if you go to Amazon and plug in babcock forceps, are the ones that come up super polished or are they the matte finish?

  3. I don't know if Amazon sells surgical instruments, but when I retired a few years back, shiny surgical instruments were few and far between. I always thought shiny looked better than matte, probably as a result of being conditioned to this as a youngster.