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Hemostatic forceps are handheld instruments used to clamp onto blood vessels and control bleeding during surgery. They are vital tools in the arsenals of surgeons and paramedics, who also might refer to them as blood vessel forceps or simply as hemostats. The name derives from the prefix hemo, relating to blood, and the Greek statikos, which means “causing to stop.” Outside of the medical field, however, observers tend to refer to them by more colloquial terms, such as pliers, tweezers or tongs — common household items that somewhat resemble these specialized tools.
Hemostatic forceps belong to a family of pivoting surgical instruments that includes various clamps, tissue holders and needle holders. Most hemostats are vaguely scissor-shaped, with blunt edges rather than blades. The tips, or beaks, of these forceps might be straight or curved, depending on the intended use of the tool. The beaks of forceps might be serrated to aid in gripping or smooth for handling more delicate blood vessels. The sizes of forceps vary greatly and can range from 3 inches (approximately 7.5 cm) to 10.5 inches (approximately 26.5 cm) in length.
Additionally, the handles of hemostatic forceps might be locking or non-locking. The locking feature of these handles is used to keep blood vessels clamped, leaving the surgeon's hands free to perform other necessary work. The locking mechanism usually consists of interlocking teeth, half lined along one handle and half along the other, which can be adjusted to alter the clamping pressure of the forceps.
Locking forceps usually are hinged in the middle of their bodies, resembling a pair of scissors. Non-locking forceps allow a surgeon to control the clamping pressure of the tool directly, which is especially important when dealing with more fragile blood vessels. Non-locking forceps might be hinged in the middle, like most locking forceps, or they might be hinged near the handle, resembling a pair of tweezers.
The overall shape of hemostatic forceps is long and slender, designed to reach blood vessels easily with minimal trauma to surrounding tissues or organs. These forceps are intended mainly for use in surgery, so they usually are manufactured from high-quality carbon steel. This type of steel is durable enough to be able to withstand the high temperatures and abrasion of repeated sterilization, making them fairly long-lasting. Disposable forceps also exist, though these are simply made out of plastic and are intended to be used only one time.