Choosing the Right Surgical Power Tool

A surgical power tool is an instrument used to perform surgery on bone or bone fragments. It enables drilling, sawing, reaming and screwing. It is mainly used in human or veterinary orthopedic surgery, traumatology, neurology and ENT surgery.

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  • How to choose the right surgical power tool?

    It is important to take into account the following parameters:

    • Application: surgical power tools are mainly used in microsurgery, especially in microneurology and ENT microsurgery, but they are also used in traumatology or for operations on large bones.
    • Ergonomics, mainly the weight of the instrument: a compact and light surgical power tool will be easier and more comfortable for a surgeon to use, especially during long operations.
    • The shape of the instrument: some surgical power tools are gun-shaped for operations on long bones or in traumatology. Others are pen-shaped, which is more suitable for microsurgery or small bones.


    There are other characteristics that aren’t as essential but should also be taken into account:

    • The power source: surgical power tools can be pneumatic, electric or battery-powered (see question 3).
    • The versatility of the device: it is possible to alternate which tool is used (saw, reamer, drill). Some models have only one function, others have several combinations. In the latter case, the head of the device can be changed.
    • Noise level in use: some models are noisy which can disrupt work or increase stress levels during an operation. It is preferable to choose a quiet model.
    • The presence of a double trigger: this allows you to change the direction of the device’s screwing and/or drilling with the simple pressure of a finger.
  • What characteristics should you take into account according to the application?

    The application will determine some characteristics of the surgical power tool such as:

    • Power: it is essential to have a powerful surgical tool for applications such as traumatology or veterinary surgery when working on large animals. Newer models of surgical power tools very often offer a better power-to-weight ratio. On the other hand, for microsurgery, the power of the motor won’t be the most important element to consider.
    • Autonomy: if the device is battery-operated, you will have to be sure to fully recharge it before long periods of use, and to choose a model offering long autonomy. It should be noted that sterile or aseptic lithium batteries increase the weight of the power tool even if the latest models tend to provide a better power-to-weight ratio.
    • The different accessories available / adaptability: for orthopedics or traumatology, surgical power tools can be accompanied by many accessories, such as several drill bits with different diameters for the drill. You can also attach different heads to the end of the device depending on the application: this can be a reamer, a drill or a oscillating sternum saw, for example.
  • What are the different power sources available?

    Stryker surgical power tools

    There are three main types of power supply for a surgical power tool:

    • Pneumatic: A compressed air unit will offer several advantages such as a centralized power supply, no risk of electrocution and a longer service life. But you must have the right installation in the operating room and be willing to work with a device connected to a cable.
    • Electric (mains): very often, this type of equipment is a little cheaper. But the service life is slightly shorter than that of pneumatic devices and the presence of cables remains an inconvenience.
    • Electric (battery powered): battery-powered devices are very practical, they allow for more freedom of movement due to the absence of cables but they often weigh more. This last factor can be a disadvantage in very sensitive operations, such as neurology, or for long operations. It is also important to remember to recharge the device before each use and to take a spare battery with you.
  • What features are available for a surgical power tool?

    Most surgical power tools have a detachable end adapted for the appropriate application:

    • Drilling / Boring / Screwing: the diameter of the drill bits can be changed as with a drill. Some devices have a double trigger for screwing and unscrewing. There can also be different drilling speeds. These tools are mainly used in traumatology and human or veterinary orthopedic surgery.
    • Sawing: this feature is mainly used for sternotomies, osteotomies or inserting prostheses. These surgical power tools are very powerful.
    • Reaming: this surgical power tool allows intramedullary reaming of long bones and bone canal reaming in the suregery of the posterior cavity of the middle ear, etc.
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