This paper reports on unique and scalable sensorized medical scissor blades for application in minimally invasive robotic surgery. The blades exploit the strain sensing capabilities of a single fiber Bragg grating (FBG) sensor bonded to the blade surface. This smart sensing structure allows detection of friction and material fracture forces during cutting and subsequently enables accurate estimation of the blade kinetic friction coefficient and fracture toughness values of the material being cut. We present theory on the determination of strain variation along the blade length during combined direct and lateral loading of the blade element during operation. Demonstration of the sensorized instrument is realized on an application specific experimental test-bed employing a commercial interrogation system for signal demodulation. Friction and cutting forces measured using the FBG are validated against load cell force data from the test-bed. Characterization tests showed that the sensorized blade has an unfiltered force sensing resolution of 0.5N over a 30N load range. This work demonstrates that a single optical fiber placed onto cutting instrument blades can, in an unobtrusive manner, reliably measure friction forces and material fracture properties during surgical cutting. © 2011 IOP Publishing Ltd.