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What Are the Different Types of Forceps?

Obstetric forceps may be used to grasp an infant's head during childbirth.
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  • Written By: Christina Edwards
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2014
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Doctors and surgeons use several types of forceps for different tasks. Some of these forceps lock in the closed position, while others do not. Forceps may also be made from different materials, including metal and plastic. Obstetric forceps are used in childbirth, and these types of forceps are usually much larger than other types.

The word forceps comes from the Latin word “forca,” which means trap. Many of the types of forceps are used as medical instruments. They are often used to grasp tissue or small objects. Some types of forceps can even be locked in the closed position, which frees up a doctor's hands to work elsewhere.

Locking forceps are one type of forceps used in the medical profession. These types of forceps have loops on the handle for thumbs and fingers. When they are squeezed shut, interlocking teeth below the finger grips latch together, causing them to lock.

These are often used as clamps, either to hold a flap of skin or clamp a blood vessel shut during surgery. When surgical forceps are used to stop the flow of bleeding, they are often referred to as hemostats. Suture forceps are common types of locking forceps, and these are used to hold and guide a suture needle.

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Forceps that don't lock, or non-locking forceps, are sometimes referred to as thumb forceps. These types of forceps typically resemble tweezers, with two pieces of metal attached together at one end. When the two prongs are pressed together the jaws of the forceps close. These are often used to remove sutures, and they can be used to remove small foreign objects, such as splinters, from tissue.

Many types of forceps can be made from either metal or plastic. Carbon steel forceps are typically the stronger of the two, and they can be reused after sterilization. Plastic forceps, on the other hand, may not be as strong, but they do not need to be sterilized. These typically come wrapped in sterile packaging, and they are meant to be thrown away after one use.

Obstetric forceps are another type of forceps, but these are typically much larger. These typically consist of two pieces of metal, with handles on one end and curved jaws on the other. The jaws can be used to grasp a newborn's head to help it exit the birth canal. Using obstetric forceps is generally not recommended, since they can injury a newborn. These types of forceps are usually only used in emergency situations, such as when the mother or her child are in distress.

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