A distractor for separating adjacent elements, such as vertebrae. The distractor preferably has a scissors-type distracting mechanism, either in a simple scissors or double-acting scissors configuration. Additionally, one or more of the blades, distracting mechanism, and handles are offset with respect to the other to facilitate visualization and to increase the space available for an implant holder. The blades are configured to enhance versatility of the distractor. In a first embodiment, the blades are removable from the jaws of the distractor such that different blades may be used depending on the patient and situation with which the distractor is to be used. In a second embodiment, curved portions are provided between the blades and jaws such that the blades are offset from the jaws in a smooth transition which does not expose sharp edges to internal organs or vasculature of the patient. In a third embodiment, a pair of blades is provided on each jaw such that an implant may be inserted between the spaced apart blades without having a blade engage an external blade-receiving slot in the implant.