Protect deep tissues with the right-angled forceps and then make a laceration a straight line with a scalpel. Feeling a little lost? It is not easy to understand medical jargon if we are not familiar with the language. When it comes to instruments’ names – we really need to get it right in the first try.
Dissection kits come in different sizes and levels, but they all come with some tools that are absolutely essential to perform dissection work.
So, what comes in a dissection kit? The short answer is that usually these sets come with scalpels, dissecting probes, forceps, scissors, and dissecting needles. Some have extra instruments such as rulers, pipettes, extra blades and pins.
Although we know what scissors and needles are, the ones used for dissection are different beasts, and we will dive deeper on their types and uses ahead.
Dissection tools, instruments, and equipment:
Dissecting dead organic matter is always a delicate subject, and no matter which tool you are using it is paramount to always protect yourself. When engaging in dissection, always use medical grade gloves, goggles and a lab coat.
Animals for dissection are usually kept in a chemical liquid that is very harmful for humans, and the dead cells themselves can also carry diseases. Protection is crucial.
Although specific kits can vary, we compiled a list of the most commonly used dissection instruments, and their uses.
- Scalpel – a scalpel has a very sharp blade attached to a metal or plastic body. This is the most used tool to make the first cut into the subject. If you are dissecting a frog, for example, and need to cut through the skin and muscle in the frog’s chest, you will need a scalpel.
Some dissection kits come with extra blades for the scalpel, which comes in handy because they need to be constantly sharp. There are also different sizes of scalpels, so a more complete kit will not have only one of them,and they are referred to by their blade number.
- Forceps – forceps are used for grabbing, grasping and holding small pieces you are examining. They look like tweezers and work as your hands would, holding skin place, removing organs, etc. They can be serrated or not, depending on the type of tissue they need to grasp.
- Scissors – surgical scissors are used for a variety of purposes. They can suture, cut, and dissect. The mayo scissors are heavy handed and the straight ones are used to cut through suture, while the curved ones cut tough organic matter.
Metz scissors are lighter and are used for more delicate tissues. Pott scissors create incisions in fine blood vessels, and Iris scissors, finally, are the most versatile ones and mostly used in dissection.
- Needles – needles need to cut through tissue to suture, but they cannot destroy the matter in the process. They come in different types, depending on what you are dissecting. They can vary on the shape or point type.
Curved needles are for general use, while straight ones are for skin and subskin suturing. When it comes to point, they can be rounder or pointer, also depending on type of tissue.
- Pins – pins are used to secure the specimen you are dissecting to the tray, making sure they stay in place while you work.
- Probes – they are used to examine the organic matter. Sometimes you do not want to cut anything open, or to interfere with the matter, just to examine. Dissection is usually used for learning after all! In those cases, you will use a dissecting probe to safely examine the specimen, without touching it.
These probes usually have a handle and a bent head with a rounded endpoint.
- Clamps – not very common in basic kits, but present in more comprehensive ones, clamps are similar to forceps in their use. They are locking forceps, meaning they lock in place after you grasp.
What are the basic safety rules for dissection?
If you are not a medical student and are delving into the world of dissection for curiosity or personal learning, there are a few rules you should follow.
- Always wear gloves and never touch any especimen with your bare skin
- Always cut away from your body (or other people’s bodies)
- Properly dispose of dissection subjects after you are finished
- Clean up your work area properly
- Thoroughly wash your hands and arms after finishing it
How do I care for my dissection kit?
Dissection kits do not usually include cleaning products, so it is important to know what to get. Here is a basic idea of how to clean your area before and after dissection!
It is important to buy a medically graded detergent – regular home detergent will not be enough. Read the instructions carefully and follow them. Some detergents need to be diluted, while others can be used straight.
Another option is to use an Autoclave, which is a high temperature sterilizing machine. This is not so practical however, as they are mostly found in laboratories and clinics. Do not use your home oven as it is not suited for that.
Rinse and clean your tools after each use, drying them carefully with a paper towel. If some tools have small parts, take them all apart and clean them separately. Stainless steel is the best material for dissection tools, as they are rust-resistant.
Even so, it is best to dry them properly to avoid long term rusting or damaging. Wear gloves not only for dissenting but also for cleaning.
Wipe your area with medical grade detergent and dispose of items properly. When it comes to dissection specimens, if you are not using them anymore dispose of them in the regular trash bin, but wrapped in a zip lock bag. If you want to keep them, there are chemical liquids you can purchase for that.
Place the specimen inside a clean glass jar and the liquid, you do not need to refrigerate it. The most important thing is to purchase products that are specifically made for dissection (cleaning and preserving) as we are dealing with live and decaying matter. Be safe and learn away!