Marking Bone with an IKEA Pencil.

Evidently, our favorite writing/marking tool has a use that might be a little…unsettling to read about. Pencils are very good for marking bone during surgery.

“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 that struggle to transfer an ink mark to bone, or are washed away by irrigation or tissue fluids.4 5 Sterilisation, originally achieved with 18 hours of dry heat,6 is now performed by autoclaving, making a pocketful of IKEA pencils from one shopping visit last for many months­­—important in the current financial climate. The only problem is that on repeated sterilisation even the hardiest of pencil splits. Ours proceeded to extrude its graphite core before it was even removed from the protective wrapper. We have solved this problem by wrapping silicon cuffs around the pencil—maybe we could suggest this to the designers at IKEA?

Despite this, pencils remain a safe and reliable method of marking bone, making the Argos pen safe for now, at least.”