In an emergency situation, mere seconds can be the difference between life and death, which is why having a good pair of shears is critical so that you can quickly remove clothing and other materials to assess a victim's wounds. For a trustworthy pair that you can count on to handle any type of material thick or thin, we'd recommend the Prestige Medical Fluoride Scissors. We compared 14 shears commonly used in the medical field and found that their strong blade design, special non-stick fluoride coating, and autoclavability makes them the best trauma shears for any type of medical personnel. Article Summary
In the world of medicine and emergency response, having equipment you can rely on can be the difference between saving a life and losing one. Weak apparatuses, faulty devices and inaccurate meters can cause deadly mistakes, so carefully vetting each piece of equipment and making sure it can adequately do its job is absolutely crucial. From the moment of first response until recovery and release, something every medical professional should have on them is a good pair of trauma shears.
For too many ER medical professionals, ICU doctors, and EMTs, trauma shears are just a small pair of scissors – any pair will do and that’s that. This could not be further from the truth. In an emergency situation, where mere seconds can be the difference between life and death, you want anything that can help save time. This all starts with a durable, trustworthy pair of shears that can handle any clothing material and get the job done quickly and efficiently. Although these tools are pretty simple, the design of handles and blades can vary, and some are definitely better than others.
With the help of a local nurse, we gathered details on 14 pairs of shears that are commonly used in the field of emergency response. Some brands you might recognize, and some you might not. Our goal was to find the best trauma shears for the field, no matter whether you are a first responder or an ICU doctor. After around 20 hours comparing materials and designs, plus testing certain models thanks to our nurse’s equipment access, we’ve found the three most efficient shears for the job.
The best trauma shears overall
The Prestige Medical Fluoride Scissors are one of the most depended upon pairs of shears in the industry. These are extremely popular among medical professionals and EMS technicians for their dependability in their respective jobs, and the tough tasks therein that they must perform. For this dependability, coupled with their efficiency and value, these are our pick as the best trauma shears.
There are more expensive shears on the market, and there are some made from stronger materials – so what makes these the best? The fact of the matter is, you can spend $70 on a pair of shears made from a stronger material that have all kinds of accessories on them; but, what do you do when the blade inevitably chips? Spend another $70? When the job can be done perfectly with the high quality 420 stainless steel of Prestige Medical’s scissors, it renders the more expensive options pointless. Also, when you have shears that are basically multi-tools, most of them are hard-to-impossible to sterilize due to all of the components and compartments (not to mention the additional tools usually aren’t as effective as their independent versions anyways). It’s important to have a pair of shears that are just that – shears.
The Prestige Medical shears are 7 1/2”, a standard length, and they feature a fluoride coating which contributes to the extra non-stick qualities that push the blades above and beyond the standard capabilities of stainless steel. These shears also feature hardened, high-impact plastic handles that are sure to stand the test of time and outlast multiple pairs of cheaper models.
One of the best features about this pair, apart from their strong simplicity, is that they are autoclavable. If you’re studying to be an EMT or you’re new to the industry, an autoclave is a machine that sterilizes equipment via extremely hot steam. Not all shears can stand up to this environment, so it’s handy to be able to toss them in and retrieve a sterile pair ready to take on the next procedure.
Overall, the Prestige Medical Fluoride Scissors offer a trustworthy pair of shears that get the job done with ease and are sure to last twice as long as other models thanks to their solid material quality. The added fluoride coating is a nice benefit which adds to their efficiency, and the low price tag makes them easy on the wallet now and in the future when you will inevitably have to replace them.
A long-lasting titanium alternative
Titanium is one of the strongest materials in the world, and it is quite a bit stronger than Prestige Medical’s stainless steel. Titanium can be repeatedly bowed and flexed without losing its shape or breaking, which can certainly be an advantage in high-stress situations. As such, the EverReady Titanium Bandage Shears are a great choice.
Before getting into the positives, it’s important to understand how titanium and stainless steel differ – and why we ended up choosing a pair of stainless steel shears over a titanium set. Although titanium is quite a bit stronger than steel, it is also softer.
As a throwback example, do you remember how in old cartoons prospectors would bite a gold nugget to verify whether it was true gold or fool’s gold? They did this because gold is a soft metal and would slightly bend to the bite and show teeth marks. While titanium isn’t nearly as soft as gold, it is softer than stainless steel, and thus won’t hold an edge as long and is more prone to scratches and marks. While the blades of these shears certainly may last longer than our top pick, they won’t hold their sharpness as long, which is the more important lifespan to look at. Also, this pair isn’t autoclavable like our top pick are, which means you’ll have to sterilize them by hand (usually with wipes).
What we did love about these shears is the simple fact that they last a long time. Due to the serrated nature of trauma shears, there are many materials that don’t require the blades to be razor sharp to cut with. As long as you’re wary of scratches and store your pair well, the edges on these blades should hold up for much longer than other cheaply made models.
The EverReady Titanium Shears don’t feature the hardness or autoclavability of Prestige Medical’s set, but they’re still a great alternative if you’re looking for a long-lasting set at a good price.
Shears with a built-in carabiner
As a third choice, the EMT Trauma Shears from Carabiner-Shears are worth a look. Like our top pick, these have a high-quality stainless steel construction and feature hardened plastic handles. However, unlike the other two models we’ve chosen above, the handle also features a built-in carabiner for simple transportation. Having the option of hooking these on your belt loop can be make a world of difference in accessibility, and it is certainly a convenient feature.
While emergency room doctors and nurses probably won’t get much out of this feature due to the fact that most scrubs don’t have belt loops, EMTs and other first responders may find the carabiner extremely useful in accelerating the treatment of emergency victims, or removing them from harm. At the standard 7.5” size, these shears can seem a bit long to have dangling from a belt loop, but many people have reported positive experiences without any obvious issues.
The blades themselves are made of premium Japanese surgical steel, and like our top pick, these are also autoclavable. They might not have the added fluoride coating for non-stick, but overall their construction is good and will likely last just as long as Prestige Medical or EverReady’s shears.
For the versatility and mobility that comes along with this unique carabiner design, the EMT Trauma Shears by Carabiner-Shears could be the perfect fit for your personal toolset on the job.
Things to consider before buying
Trauma shears are simple tools, and because of their simplicity in design, the market is flooded with cheaply made products from foreign countries. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with being made in a foreign country, I think we’ve experienced the difference between cheap knock-off’s and actually well-built products. In addition to the variation in build quality, the materials themselves (stainless steel versus titanium, etc.) offer different levels of strength and durability. It’s important to keep the following things in mind when decided which pair to buy to ensure you choose the best trauma shears for your common work needs.
Trauma shears are something that are often sold in either pairs or packs. With this, many of them seem to take on an almost disposable quality, and the ones that come in large packs are often made cheaply and don’t last very long. A proper pair should last you a while, so a generalized tip when shopping is that the best pairs are mostly sold individually (this is not an absolute rule by any means though). Good signs of durability are good reviews in online marketplaces, thick handles and a solid joint at the blades – all of these are indicators that the shears are solid and will last you more than the flimsy ones with the see-through handles.
Most trauma shears are made out of stainless steel. There are a few titanium models here and there, but they’re mostly going to be good old steel. In this, however, there is a bit of variability. Steel can be treated in a few different ways and shaped differently which will give it different qualities, levels of strength, levels of durability, sharpness and so on. When choosing the best trauma shears for our guide, we looked for those with materials that emphasized durability as well as lifespan. Sharpness was a key factor too, but because of the blade’s design, it wasn’t at the absolute forefront (shears can cut through most clothing materials with ease even if they’re not sharp as a kitchen knife).
The material of the handle is also important for durability and grip. There are many sets that simply have flimsy plastic handles, but the ones you should be looking for have thick, contoured plastic handles or rubberized handles.
Price isn’t really going to make-or-break a pair of shears, as most of them come in around $10-15 for a pair. However, the thing to be aware of here is prices that are either too low or too high. If you know that a good pair costs around $10-15, but you find a ten-pack for $12.99, you can probably make the educated guess that these aren’t exactly the cream of the crop. These are likely cheaply made. In that same vein, if you’re looking at a brands that brags about quality and accessory usage but they’re $50, just know that you’re not most likely getting any more efficiency by spending five times the price.
Trauma shears vs other cutting tools
As you know, trauma shears are mainly meant to cut away clothing, bandages, shoes and other fabric-type materials in emergency response situations. But with several types of cutting tools readily available for medical personnel, there is debate on whether these are the best tool for the job. The two other main contenders are bandage shears, which share the same basic design, and emergency knives, which are generally one-piece frames with a serrated blade attached. We’ve compared each tool in various aspects to help you choose the one that will work best for your specific job in the field.
Trauma Shears: Bandages, clothes, shoes, seat belts – you name it, trauma shears can cut it. There are many stories of EMTs winning bar bets by cutting pennies and nickels with them. We don’t recommend doing that; but hey, a bet’s a bet. This tools is by far the most versatile of the three, and versatility is something you’ll need on the job in case something unexpected is in the way between rescuing a patient.
Bandage Shears: Bandage shears are very light duty, so they’ll usually only work with bandages and thin clothing. They can cut through medium-thickness materials, but it will be with a bit more struggle than with trauma shears.
Emergency Knives: Emergency knives are mainly for clothes and seat belts; however, the effectiveness of its use on clothes is hotly debated, with about half in favor and half against.
Trauma Shears: These can go through a lot of abuse and still get the job done – this is part of why they can be counted on in so many emergency situations. However, they are not the most durable of the three tools.
Bandage Shears: Bandage shears are a bit on the thinner side in terms of material thickness, making them the least durable of the three options.
Emergency Knives: Emergency knives are the most durable on the list for a few reasons. First, there are no moving parts. Second, the blade isn’t exposed to a whole lot of weathering and won’t get banged up during storage because it lies between the sides of the handle.
Other applications for trauma shears
Since trauma shears are made to cut through pieces of clothing – thick and thin – you can probably wager that they can cut other things. Many people keep shears around in their house for this very reason. Cutting through paracord, canvas, coated nylon and other materials can pretty much snap a pair of regular household scissors; however, with shears, the job becomes a breeze. Durable plastic, clamshell-type packaging can be a tough task with household scissors as well. Bust out a pair of shears and you can rip through it with laser precision, so as not to damage the product inside. Also, if you’re in a situation where you need to cut some thin metal strapping, and there’s no other clipping tools around, trauma shears can be used to cut through thin metal.
Around the house, around the campsite and especially around in your kit in the ambulance or emergency room – trauma shears have incredible versatility and can be used for a wide variety of jobs and projects, which makes them handy to have around.
Wrapping it up
There are very few components to the simple design of trauma shears, but these components’ treatment, construction and assembly are going to determine whether you’ve got a sturdy pair that can survive a busy overnight shift or a shoddy pair that couldn’t make it through an old beat up t-shirt. When the health of a patient can come down to mere seconds, fast action is critical, which is why you’ll need the best trauma shears you can find. We thought the sets above were the best out of all the options available due to their quality construction and value. They offered all the same efficiency of more expensive models, but without the $50+ price tag.