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Updated October 2022
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Buying guide for Best trauma shears

In an emergency, every second counts. You don’t have time to deal with buttons and zippers. If you need clothing out of the way right now, you need trauma shears.

Trauma shears are special scissors used by emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and trauma nurses. They can quickly cut through clothing, belts, and even jewelry so that medical professionals can access wounds or sensitive areas and administer urgent medical treatment. Some trauma shears can cut through vehicle safety belts and light metal to help remove people who are trapped in a vehicle following a car accident.

These unusual-looking shears are extremely sharp but have blunt tips that prevent the user from cutting the patient. The angled design lets you cut through tougher, thicker material than straight scissors can. The angle also makes it easier to slip the blade under the clothing quickly without stabbing the wearer.

If your profession requires you to carry trauma shears, then you need them to perform reliably. You can’t risk equipment failure at a critical moment.

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Some trauma shears are so strong they can cut through a penny. It might not be wise to dull your shears by testing this claim, but first responders should look for tools with this kind of strength.

Key considerations

When looking at trauma shears, it’s important to think about where and how you’ll be using them.

For first responders

If you’re a first responder, you need quality trauma shears that are ready for anything. Cutting denim, leather, and metal must be part of the job description. Having trauma shears easily available allows you to quickly assess the level of trauma that is hidden below clothing so you can give the hospital a more accurate picture of the injuries.

You want a size that’s large enough to provide leverage for tough cuts but small enough to fit comfortably in your hand. Most trauma shears are 7.5 inches long – bigger than that and they might be too heavy to be carried or attached to uniform scrubs. Larger shears could, however, be carried more easily in a paramedic equipment bag.

Expert tip
Always use an autoclave when available to sterilize your trauma shears. If you don't have access to an autoclave, the next best thing is soap and hot water.
BestReviews Medical Expert

For hospital settings

Emergency room doctors and trauma surgeons may also rely on trauma shears to easily remove clothing. Maneuvering the patient can be life-threatening, and trauma shears provide a quick way to remove clothing and access wounds while the patient remains still.

For others

If you’re not on the front lines, or you work in a different medical setting, bandage scissors might better fit your bill. These smaller tools look similar to trauma shears but don’t have the same strength. They’re designed to cut through bandages and plaster casts but don’t have the power to reliably cut through tougher materials. This capability isn’t necessarily needed because a hospital or medical clinic has a wider variety of tools available.

Fishermen, divers, and those who work in the trades sometimes carry trauma shears as a safer alternative to knives. In these settings, trauma shears are more appropriate than bandage scissors. Tools used for these applications should have the heavy-duty strength of trauma shears, but they don’t need to hold up to the same punishing sterilization processes used in some medical settings.

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Did you know?
Rather than risk discovering their shears are dull in an emergency, some paramedics plan to purchase a new pair on a regular basis, usually every six months or every year.

Trauma shears features


If you’re using a tool to save lives, you need to be able to find it at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to think about where you’ll keep your trauma shears when you’re on the job. You might be able to keep them in a supply bag or tool tray, but some prefer to keep them close at hand.

  • Pocket: Some people keep foldable trauma shears in their pockets. This might work for some, but many medical workers are required to wear scrubs, which usually don’t have pockets and may be too lightweight to support shears.

  • Holster: Other users keep their trauma shears in specially designed holsters. Many of these holsters clip to a belt or thicker scrub waistbands.

  • Carabiner: Some manufacturers skip the middleman and build a carabiner right into the handle of the shears. This way, you can clip them directly onto a belt, lanyard, or another tool. This makes them extremely handy. Just make sure the shears don’t hamper your movements when performing other lifesaving procedures.


Trauma shears are likely to see serious action, and potentially infectious bodily fluids are often part of the job. If you’re using your trauma shears in a professional setting, make sure you know what sterilization process your employer requires.

  • Autoclave: Some hospitals use a pressure chamber called an autoclave to sterilize equipment that’s come into contact with bodily fluids. Autoclaves treat equipment with pressurized, saturated steam to eliminate infection sources to a surgically sterile level. Trauma shears that are autoclaved are subjected to extreme heat, pressure, and moisture for 15 to 20 minutes. Products designed to withstand these extreme conditions are usually advertised as such.

  • Other: Some facilities use bleach, soap, and water, or other products and procedures to clean trauma shears for their next use.


Serration: Many trauma shears have serrations to help grip and cut through material that a straight blade can’t handle. Serrated shears are great for material that’s especially tough, but they don’t work very well for cutting through bandages. If you think that serrated shears will work better for your needs, you’ll need to choose between serrations that are stamped or milled.

  • Stamped: Shears that have stamped serrations are usually less expensive than those with milled serrations. Stamped serrations are basically pressed into the metal blade and may wear down more quickly, allowing the blade edges to slip on thicker fabrics.

  • Milled: Milled serrations are carved into the blade. This process is more precise and creates deeper grooves. Shears with milled serrations are more expensive, but the serrations tend to last longer, giving you a better grip on leather and tough fabric.


  • Stainless steel: Trauma shears are typically made from stainless steel to ensure they’re durable and resistant to corrosion.

  • Surgical steel: Some are made of surgical steel, which is a grade of stainless steel with specific alloys to make the shears safer for use in medical applications.

  • Coatings: Some shears include special coatings that make them easier to use in different applications. For example, some have a fluoride coating that gives them nonstick properties for use with tape and bandages. Titanium coatings give trauma shears more strength to cut through thicker materials.
Expert tip
Make sure the trauma shears fit your hands in a comfortable manner. Shears that are too big or too small can cause imprecision when cutting. 
BestReviews Medical Expert

Trauma shears prices


You can find an inexpensive pair of trauma shears for under $10. Trauma shears in this price range will likely cut through almost anything but might dull in less than a year. They’re a good choice if you tend to leave tools behind at the scene or if coworkers frequently “borrow” your equipment. These shears will get the job done, but they might not last long and probably won’t be able to be autoclaved.


These trauma shears cost between $10 and $25. Tools in this bracket should last at least a year and have value-added features like milled serrations and nonslip handles. They should be able to withstand sterilization in an autoclave.


High-end trauma shears range from $30 to $100. Trauma shears that cost this much are a career investment that should last decades. They should have high-quality serrated blades and slip-free center bolts and be autoclavable. Many trauma shears in this price range include a warranty that backs up their quality.


  • Look at handle size if your fingers are particularly large or small. Trauma shears won’t cut easily if they’re a struggle to operate.

  • Read the care instructions. Most trauma shears with plastic handles cannot be autoclaved. Be sure to read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.

  • Look for nonslip handles. Some manufacturers create trauma shears with nonslip handles, which can help prevent your hand from slipping when cutting particularly stubborn fabric.

  • Figure out how you’ll carry your trauma shears. If you’re looking for your first pair, make sure you have a plan for convenient carrying before you buy. Some have special features to connect to belts, lanyards, or MOLLE pouches.

  • Pick the right trauma shears for the job. If you’re a fisherman or diver adding trauma shears to your supplies, make sure the ones you choose will remain rust-free even in saltwater.
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Police officers or other professionals who might encounter combative individuals should secure trauma shears on their person the same way they would secure a weapon.


Q. Can I sharpen trauma shears that have become dull?

A. It’s possible to sharpen them, just like any other blade or pair of scissors. Some people use sandpaper, others use a knife sharpener or whetstone. But sharpening may not be the best practice. To sharpen a serrated blade, you need to meticulously work between the serrations to preserve the serrations. Considering the time and effort required, as well as the price of most trauma shears, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to sharpen them. Remember that you’re using the shears to help save lives, and it seems clear that buying a new pair is probably the best plan. If you have a pricey pair that dulls quickly, a conversation with the manufacturer is in order.

Expert tip
To properly grip your trauma shears, use your thumb to hold the handle with the smaller circle and use your middle finger to grip the longer handle.
BestReviews Medical Expert

Q. My employer doesn’t have an autoclave. Should I try to find one to sterilize the shears?

A. Many hospitals use an autoclave to decontaminate lab equipment, surgical tools, and other medical items. Autoclaves use steam and pressure to kill spores, bacteria, germs, and other microorganisms so the tools are safe to use on the next patient. If your employer requires autoclave sterilization and has a machine, you should obviously use it. But if you’re an EMT or other field technician, it’s important to remember your equipment isn’t totally sterile anyway. You should take every precaution possible to remove biological material and dirt, and follow your employer’s policies and instructions. But remember, trauma shears are not surgical equipment. They’re primarily used to cut clothing. If you’re storing them in your pocket, hanging them from a badge, or attaching them to a belt loop, they’re not sterile.

Q. Why do some manufacturers say their trauma shears can cut pennies?

A. It’s not just about bragging rights – there’s a real purpose. There are times when paramedics need to cut things like rings, zippers, rivets, and other metal items off a patient in order to provide medical attention. Trauma shears that can’t easily slice through metal potentially leave patients at risk. If you’re in a hospital, clinic, or another institutional setting, this capability might not be as important to you, but if you’re out in the field, it’s vital.

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