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Forceps: A Modern Instrument With Long History

Forceps are handheld surgical instruments consisting of two blades and a handle used for grasping, handling, holding, and compressing. The word “forceps” is derived from the Latin “formus” (hot) and “capere” (to grasp), defining an instrument designed to grasp, pluck, or lift something that’s too hot handle with one’s hands. Though the word is plural in form, it is a singular object, just as scissors are, and may likewise be referred to as a “pair” of forceps. They are similar in concept to tongs, tweezers, and pincers.

The story behind the invention of the modern forceps is quite intriguing. They were invented around 1600 by obstetrician Peter Chamberlen and he and his brother went to great lengths to keep the instrument a family secret. When they’d arrive at the home of a woman in labor, two people would carry a large gilded box inside. The woman would be blindfolded and all other attendees were made to leave, then they would commence the operation. The secret was kept until about 1730, shortly after the death of Hugh Chamberlen in 1728, whereupon it was leaked out and a public design of the instrument was made.

Since then, the instrument underwent many design innovations and today, there are many types of forceps used in just about every medical specialty there is. From surgery to obstetrics, to emergency medicine, sports medicine, phlebotomy, and others, these instruments are required tools for every healthcare professional.

Here are few categories that are commonly used:

• Obstetrical Forceps – which aid in baby delivery
• Tissue Forceps– a type of tweezers
• Hemostatic Forceps – used to arrest blood flow; also referred to as a hemostat
Mosquito Forceps – a small hemostat
• Alligator Forceps – an angled variety with jaws at the end

In the surgical arena, these instruments serve many purposes. They can be used to handle needles, tissues, and dressings in a sterile manner. In order to handle tissues without applying too much pressure, tissue forceps are used because they have small teeth near the tips. Smooth Forceps are typically used to grab hold of suturing material. Dressing forceps are larger and resemble something more in the realm of tongs.

These instruments are very often used in the field of obstetrics to assist in delivering babies. They’re employed as an alternative to using a vacuum device when labor has not progressed adequately, for reasons such as:

• The baby may be breeched or in another adverse position
• Maternal or fetal distress
• When further pushing is no longer effective
High blood pressure

In such cases, the instrument is inserted into the cervix, locked into position around the baby’s head, and after an episiotomy is performed, the baby is removed.

The practical and potential uses of this instrument in the medical field are incalculable. They are just as necessary in treatment rooms and operating rooms as an extra set of hands.

With the variety of surgical instruments available in today's medical market place, “the right tool, for the right job” is a statement which can not be understated, especially when it comes to the well being of patients.

Submitted by:

Gary Gordon

To learn more visit our surgical instruments and equipment section or read more about the applications for forceps.




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