British surgeons discover new surgical tool - the IKEA pencil | Science| In-depth reporting on science and technology | DW | 10.12.2010
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British surgeons discover new surgical tool - the IKEA pencil

British surgeons have apparently found that the IKEA pencil are better at marking out cuts in the bone for facial and head surgery than traditional felt tipped pens, according to a report in the British Medical Journal.


Pencils have more uses than you might think

While the popularity of the IKEA pencil is widely known - there is even a Facebook page called "IKEA pencil stealing appreciation" - the idea of sourcing pencils from the Swedish furniture store chain for surgery has not been widely disseminated before.

According a report published Thursday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), the tiny pencils have proved very useful when marking bones during surgery.

The authors of the report, Karen Eley from the Nuffield Department of Surgical Sciences at the University of Oxford, and Stephen Watt-Smith from the Department of Maxillofacial Surgery at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, say they were surprised when they were handed an IKEA pencil in the middle of an operation.

"As popular as these little pencils are, we were still surprised to be handed one halfway through a surgical case," they wrote in the report.

"The use of a pencil to mark osteotomy cuts in craniofacial and maxillofacial surgery is well established, proving superior to methylene. Bonney's blue and felt tipped skin markers struggle to transfer an ink mark to bone, or are washed away by irrigation or tissue fluids."


Sometimes it's just like woodwork

A pencil is a pencil

But despite the report, surgeons are apparently not brand-loyal.

"It's no different to any other pencil," Eley told Deutsche Welle, clearing up any misunderstandings.

"The BMJ just made it sound like that. We just thought it was funny that we were in the middle of surgery and asked for a pencil and were handed an IKEA one."

"It's just like when a carpenter uses a pencil to mark a piece of wood to saw," she added. "Except bone is a bit harder than wood."

Unfortunately, repeated sterilization means that some of the pencils split but even this problem has apparently been overcome by wrapping silicon cuffs around the pencil.

Author: Ben Knight
Editor: Cyrus Farivar

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