' Finishes ' Used in Manufacturing Surgical Instruments

Surgical Instruments Finishes - Overview

When it comes to choosing the most appropriate surgical instruments for your practice, a variety of finishes are available in the market. A basic understanding of the various finishes used in manufacturing surgical instruments is essential before you decide to purchase a particular type. The most commonly used metal for surgical instrument manufacturing is 'stainless steel', which is corrosion resistant. However, even the finest quality instruments may demonstrate corrosion and damage when they endure unfavorable conditions like harsh chemicals, repeated autoclaving, sterilization or frequent ultrasonic cleaning. Hence a variety of ‘finishes’ are used to protect instruments from damage. Some commonly available finishes are discussed in the following lines;

Gold dip or black finish

The use of tungsten carbide in surgical instruments manufacturing has revolutionized the looks of instruments. Tungsten carbide inserts are added to the working tips or edges of surgical instruments, which makes them resistant to pitting or scratching. This finish on the handles or shanks of needle holders or scissors give a characteristic 'gold dip' or black look. Scissors that contain tungsten carbide on their cutting edge maintain their cutting ability for a comparatively longer period of time. Similarly, needle holders that contain tungsten carbide inserts are capable of preventing rotation or slipping of needle during surgery.

Black chromium finish

This finish is normally reserved for instruments that are used in laser surgery. Since laser light can be potentially damaging, instruments with this finish are capable of absorbing all the light and hence prevent reflection. This not only prevents the operating surgeon, but also prevents the patient’s tissues from getting damaged due to reflected laser light.

Satin finish

This finish helps in reducing the glare and hence assists the surgeon in working comfortably. One negative aspect is its potential of getting stained.

Mirror finish

This is a highly polished finish and it resists staining very well. The negative aspect is that such instruments are highly reflective and they produce glare in surgical theatres where light is especially strong.


Anodizing is a treatment process in which electric current is passed through the surface of surgical instruments, which results in oxidation of the metal. Aluminium instrument trays that are used during the process of sterilizing surgical instruments need to be anodized. If this is not done, the surface of aluminum trays gets scratched easily. Anodizing of aluminum trays allows manufacturing of light-weight but large aluminum trays, that can carry plentiful surgical instruments at a time. An alternate could be the use of stainless steel trays, but this is impractical due to the excessive weight of steel.

Titanium anodising

Titanium is an extremely hard metal that is capable of resisting pitting and corrosion over time. Titanium anodising imparts additional hardness to titanium surface. An added benefit is that during anodising process, oxidization level can be adjusted to impart the desired color to surgical instruments. Titanium anodizing is commonly utilized in the manufacture of implants that are used in orthopedics. These may include screws or plates etc. Different colors are used for the purpose of coding these instruments to facilitate working.


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