1. What is Stainless Steel?
Stainless steel is an alloy, which does exactly what it's name suggests: it stains less than ordinary steel
(iron). Yes, it can stain, discolour and rust given the right circumstances. To make iron stainless, nickel and
chromium are added in certain quantities, depending on the purpose for use and the qualities required.
The more chromium added to the mix the softer the alloy becomes - something not desirable in a surgical
instrument. Given that, quality medical stainless steel alloy is a very specific, narrowly defined mix. A further
aspect of making steel 'stainless' is a repeated process of extracting surface impurities - mainly minerals.
Plus the final high polish of the finished instrument puts a minute protective coating on it, also very important
to make the instrument 'stainless'. Whether the final product is highly polished or mat finished will make no
difference to its stainless ability.
2. How a stainless steel instrument is processed and finished?
Stainless steel is a metal which resists rust, can be ground to a fine point and retains a sharp edge. It's
composition can be altered to enhance certain qualities. For example, a manufacturer can make a scissor
of stainless steel with carbon to create a harder cutting edge. It is the carbon in the stainless steel that
makes the scissor stronger - but carbon can cause the instrument to rust and corrode. All stainless steel can
stain, pit and rust if not cared for properly. Please consult our downloads web page for care and handling instructions.
When manufacturing a stainless steel instrument it is subject to a passivation and polishing process in order
to make the steel as stainless as possible. Passivation and polishing eliminates the carbon molecules from
the surface of the instrument surface. This forms a layer which acts as a corrosive seal. Passivation is a
chemical process that removes carbon molecules from the surface of the instrument. This chemical process
can also occur through the repeated exposure to oxidising agents in chemicals, soaps and the atmosphere.
Polishing also builds a layer of chromium oxide on the surface of the instrument. Through regular handling
and sterilisation the layer of chromium oxide will build up and protect the instrument from corrosion. In some
circumstances that is why you will notice older instruments less corrosive than new ones. The newer instruments have not had the time to build up the chromium oxide layer. However, improper cleaning and
sterilisation can cause the layer of chromium oxide to disappear or become damaged thus increasing the
possibility of corrosion. That is why it is so important to properly clean, sterilise and store your instruments.
3. What does the black handle on my instrument mean?
A black handle on scissors mean that the blades are made for easily cutting thick tissue. One blade is flat
and serrated while the other is razor sharp. A standard scissor has two sharp edges that shear against each
other, giving them a 'slicing' action.
4. What does the gold handle on my instrument mean?
A gold handle on scissors, forceps or needle holders means that have Tungsten Carbide (TC) inserts on the
working surfaces. TC is one of the hardest alloys used for surgical instruments. They are approximately twice
as expensive as standard instruments, but can last up to five times longer, cutting the same tissue. This can be very cost effective in the long run.
5. How should I clean my instruments?
This depends on how sterile your protocol requires them to be. First rinse the in pH neutral distilled water
and remove any blood and/or debris. Use a fresh neutral pH solvent and then a soft brush for the tough
cleaning. If you steam autoclave make sure that you use the manufacturer's for your autoclave (clean neutral pH distilled water), and that your high quality instruments are not mixed with instruments of inferior quality. Impurities from the lower quality instrument can start a corrosive action on your higher quality ones. Be sure that a full drying cycle is used. Overlapping joints may have dampness within the joint, increasing the chance of corrosion. This can be prevented in three ways; assure the full drying cycle is complete, apply silicone grease inside the joint as a protective layer, or by use of a air canister or hair dryer to blow moisture out of overlapping parts. Instruments can also be cleaned ultrasonically but must be immediately rinsed and dried.
6. Can I clean my instruments manually?
It is recommended that ultrasonic cleaning is the best and most cost effective way to clean surgical
instruments. If ultrasonic cleaning is not available instruments may be cleaned manually using a pH neutral
detergent, distilled water and a soft instrument cleaning brush.
7. Can I use a bleach solution to clean my instruments?
Never use bleach to clean any surgical instruments. The high pH of bleach causes surface deposits of brown
stains and might even corrode the instrument. Even high quality stainless steel is not impervious to an acidic
8. My scissors are becoming stiff and hard to use, how do I improve their action?
We recommend first cleaning the instruments in a neutral pH detergent solution with distilled water. Then
apply a surgical instrument lubricant - following the manufacturer's instructions.
9. How to properly store surgical instruments?
When storing or handling surgical instruments it is recommended that they are never stacked or piled
together. This may cause physical or other damage to instruments, including the larger ones. Instrument
edges, points and finish are best protected by individually laying them in a storage container. It is important
that this area be a dry drawer or cabinet. The use of drying agents such as silica packets or even an open
box of baking powder will aid in controlling moisture.
When storing instruments re-using tip guards may reduce damage to instrument tips. However, do not
autoclave an instrument with the tip guard on. The tip guard might retain moisture that could cause staining
or the tip may not be sufficiently sterilised.
10. Why you should lubricate surgical instruments?
Lubrication is the most important action you can take to extend the life of your instruments. The use of a
surgical instrument lubricant will prevent spotting from mineral deposits left behind by water after cleaning.
Corrosion can also be prevented by the application of lubricant. Corrosion starts in the pores of the metal and is often related to improper cleaning. With proper handling and lubrication the surface of your stainless steel instruments will develop a thin hard coating, similar to oxidation, which will help prevent damage from
corrosion. Known as the passivation layer, it makes the instruments more resistant to staining and rusting.
In addition to stain and corrosion protection lubrication reduces reduces friction at the joints, keeping the
action of the instrument light, delicate and smooth - extending the life of the instrument by reducing wear.
11. Can two of the same instruments be different?
Yes. High quality surgical instruments are hand made which can lead to some minor variations in the
dimensions of the instruments.
12. How do I purchase and submit order for surgical instruments from Heeley Surgical Ltd?
To purchase any of our products, browse our product listing page, select the code of the product(s) you
wish to purchase then email or call us to place your order. Please visit our contact us page for details.
13. What is the minimum amount I can order from Heeley Surgical Ltd?
There is no minimum order quantity when placing an order with Heeley Surgical Ltd. We appreciate every
opportunity to service the needs of our customers.
14. Can people outside the UK order from Heeley Surgical Ltd?
Yes. However we would require payment prior to shipment outside the UK.
15. How long will I have to wait for order?
Any date for delivery shall be be considered as indicative only, although it is our policy to despatch all orders
as soon as possible. You will be notified of any products that are not available at the time you place your
order - allowing you to choose to cancel or place the order. These products will be sent to you as soon as
they are available. We cannot be held responsible for delays in delivery caused by a third party. If the goods
fail to arrive please contact us to arrange for a replacement or refund.
16. What is your returns policy?
We have a 100% satisfaction guarantee. If for any reason your are not completely satisfied with any of our
products you may return them for a prompt refund or exchange. To validate our warranty please ensure all
instruments follow our care guidelines.
17. Do you have a sharpening and/or repair service?
No. We do not advise the the re-sharpening of surgical instruments as this leads to the points of instruments
no longer meeting correctly, due to losing a certain amount of materials to allow the re-sharpening. We also
find that repairing an instrument generally proves more costly than simply replacing the instrument with a
new one. This new instrument will then carry it's own guarantee against failures that result in the need of repair.