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What Are Thumb Forceps?

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  • Written By: M. Rosario
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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Thumb forceps, commonly called tweezers, are one of several types of forceps used in surgery. They are mostly used to pick small objects and hold sensitive tissue. These forceps are used by holding them between the fingers and squeezing them, which then closes the serrated tip. Most forceps used in surgery are made of either stainless steel or disposable plastic.

Generally, thumb forceps are one of the most ubiquitous surgical equipments found in the hospital. They are often used to pick up objects where using the fingers would not be ideal for the job. This can be because the object is too small for the fingers to hold, the object is in an area where the fingers would not fit, or the object needs more precision during handling.

Surgical forceps can play a vital role in the operating room. During surgery, these forceps are usually used to move or hold tissue. Since forceps enable doctors to hold tissue without direct contact, they can help prevent infection and minimize tissue damage.

There are two types of thumb forceps used to prevent infection. First are stainless steel forceps, which are made of stainless or high-grade carbon steel. Stainless steel forceps are designed to withstand high temperatures from constant sterilization. Second are disposable forceps. Normally made of plastic to cut costs, disposable forceps are used when the contamination cannot be removed by regular sterilization.

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To minimize tissue damage, forceps usually have specialized tips. A serrated or "mouse teeth" tip does less tissue damage because the serration enables the use of less pressure to grasp the tissue. Smooth and cross-hatched tips are used primarily to remove dressings and sutures. By using forceps, the doctor is able to handle dressings and sutures easier while preventing potential contamination from and to the patient.

Unlike locking forceps such as Kelly and hemostatic forceps, thumb forceps belong to the non-locking type. Non-locking types can only be used for holding and picking things because they lack the locking mechanism used to hold the forceps in position. During surgery, several types of forceps are utilized for different purposes. Locking forceps are used to control blood flow by acting as a clamp to close off the veins; they also keep tissue in place, thereby enabling the doctor to free his or her hands.

Non-locking forceps are used to move tissue around and get a hold of hard-to-reach objects, such as when dental forceps are used to remove molars. Thumb forceps have serrations on their grip to prevent slippage. This is another distinguishable characteristic from locking forceps, which are held like scissors and provide more stability.

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