MEDICINE: Healing power of hi-tech scissors

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Space-age electronic surgical scissors that stop bleeding as they snip are being tested in British hospitals.

The PowerStar scissors apply a low-voltage electric current to bleeding vessels, heating them up and causing the blood to coagulate. By sealing the wound as a cut is made, blood loss is virtually eliminated.

In trials at several hospital, the instrument reduced the length of operations by up to four hours. Blood loss in one mastectomy operation was reduced from 1.136 litres (two pints) to less than 120 millilitres.

Full results of the trials are expected in about six months. The makers, Edinburgh-based Ethicon Ltd, part of Johnson & Johnson, hope to see the scissors become standard issue in all operating theatres.

Although the scissors will not seal major arteries, blood loss from vessels up to 3mm wide can be stemmed without the need for a ligature.

Operations are made less messy, allowing a clearer "surgical field", more precise dissection, and minimal damage to surrounding tissue.