The Swedish S-Cut trauma shear is so smooth it will make you want to cut the clothes off of every minor trauma patient. But is it worth the hefty price tag?
This month’s review may not have the tech sparkle of the iPad or a new fiberoptic device, but it’s an important improvement on our current standard. We all use trauma sheers in the emergency department, and we’re well aware of their shortcomings. The first is mechanical advantage – performing a repetitive squeezing motion to cut a tough material like leather can quickly tire your hand. Secondly, with repeated use, trauma shears get dull and the hinge often loosens, making them increasingly difficult to use. This month we are looking at the S-Cut Emergency Cutting Tool, a product that takes a new look at this old problem.
The device is modeled after industrial fabric shears. The S-Cut comes in three models, the 7-701 with a razor, the 6-601 without a razor (for creating an opening) and the 06-501, which is a 6-601 with a larger handle to facilitate field use with heavy gloves. The design is beautiful in its simplicity. It consists of a machined aluminum handle that houses a fixed circular razor blade. The blade is protected by a plastic guard over an aluminum tip. This guard keeps all but the smallest parts from being sliced by a careless operator. The blade is extremely sharp so care must be taken when using the tool. As the blade dulls you simply loosen the nut holding it in place and rotate it. Numbered markings on the blade allow you to keep track of how much of the blade remains fresh and when to replace it. Unlike traditional trauma shears, when the S-Cut gets dull the only thing that you replace is the blade. The smaller S-Cut also comes with the option of an additional “slitting tool” that resembles the blade on a carpenter’s knife. This blade allows you to create a slit to start a cut if you cannot find an open area of fabric. This blade is spring-loaded and potentially dangerous if care is not taken during its use. As a safety measure, you can lock the blade down with a knurled nut preventing accidental use of the razor sharp blade. No tools are needed to lock the slitting tool or replace the circular cutting blade. The S-Cut is heat resistant to 212 degrees allowing it to be autoclaved for sterilization.
Pros: The S-Cut is a fantastically fast and easy cutting tools. Hands down, THE best trauma shear on the market.
Cons: $$$. You could wear out – or lose – 30 pairs of trauma shears for the cost of one low-end S-Cut.
Rating: 4 Stethoscopes. Downgraded 1 for cost.
Use of the tool itself is quite simple; find an open end to the patient’s clothing and pull. With a quick and easy pull, the razor sharp blade of the S-Cut slices right through pretty much any fabric be it leather, heavy nylon, or simply cotton. The only difficulty you may run into with the S-Cut is that you need some resistance to pull against so occasionally towards the end of a cut you need someone to hold the ends of the fabric taught while you cut. It is not an exaggeration to say that you can cut through a trauma patient’s shirt and pants in under 20 seconds with minimal effort. Unlike traditional trauma shears this takes almost no effort on the part of the user.
It’s rare that such a simple device can offer such a significant improvement on a tool we use on a daily basis. But it is also rare that we get such benefit with no extra cost. So where is the rub? In a word, money. I can buy a pair of trauma shears on Amazon.com right now for $6. What would I pay for the S-Cut super shears? $9.99? $29.99? How about $179. That’s right, the 601 model (smaller handle with slitting blade) retails for $195, the 501 (large version) for $249, and the 701 (smaller handle with NO slitting function) for $179.
In the end, I’m really mixed on the S-Cut line. I absolutely love them, as do ALL of the ED staff whom I let use them. Many of them couldn’t resist shredding towels, sheets, and any other fabric they could get their hands on. It took all of my willpower to not cut the clothes off of every minor trauma patient that I came across. So if you’re looking to be the coolest kid in the ED, and cost is no object then the S-Cut line is for you. If you’re lucky to keep a pair of trauma shears for more than a week without them growing legs and walking away then maybe you should stick to the $6.00 online specials.
Jason Wagner, MD, is an assistant professor of emergency medicine at Washington University in St. Louis.
Follow Jason on Twitter @TheTechDoc