These students redesigned scalpel packaging to prevent injuries

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InVenture Prize finalist Scal-Pal redesigned surgical blade packages so they’re easier and safer to use. [Image from Georgia Tech]

A group of Georgia Tech biomedical engineering students has created a new scalpel blade packaging that is designed to protect healthcare workers from injuries when handling scalpel blades. The invention is now a finalist in Georgia Tech’s annual innovation competition, Inventure Prize.

The four students were tasked with redesigning a medical device and redesigned the blade packaging of a scalpel to prevent accidents that happen when healthcare workers handle exposed blades.

Current scalpel designs require doctors and nurses to handle the blade with their fingers to remove and attach a new one to the handle. There is a foil packaging around a new blade that one person opens while a second person handles the exposed blade with needle holders to insert into the scalpel handle.

“It’s easy for accidents to happen because the packaging forces the blade to be exposed,” Bailey Klee said in a press release. “I was job shadowing in an operating room and I saw a nurse take off the blade and cut herself. We found a way to prevent that from happening again.”

The new packaging, called Scal-Pal, stores a blade inside a single-use box that is made out of pre-receycled polyethylene and is 3D printed. The nurse inserts the scalpel handle into the box and the blade is attached. The nurse can then remove the scalpel blade by inserting the scalpel back into the box where the blade is released from the handle. The entire box can then be thrown away.

“Our design works because the blade is never exposed,” said Sydney Platt. “No one has to touch it directly.”

About 385,000 sharps-related injuries occur every year among healthcare workers in hospitals, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. One of the most common causes of injuries includes activities after use and prior to disposal, which accounts for 30% of injuries, and disposal-related activities, which accounts for 11% of injuries.

“We need to gain exposure with medical device manufacturers,” Rachel Mann said. “We’re hopeful the InVenture Prize will help make that happen.”

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