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What Is a Surgical Needle?

Surgical needles are used for tasks including biopsies and sutures.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 30 July 2014
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A surgical needle is a needle which is used in surgery. Such needles are usually made from stainless steel, because this metal is strong and resists corrosion, and will also bend before breaking, which can be critical when a surgical needle is being used in a location where breakage might be a risk. These needles are made by medical supply companies, which usually make a range of types and sizes to meet various needs.

Several different kinds of needles are used in surgery. In biopsy procedures, specialized biopsy needles may be used to extract samples of tissue for examination. These needles can be designed in several different ways, depending on the type of procedure they are being used in. They are generally designed to be disposable to prevent cross-contamination and to ensure that samples collected on a biopsy needle come from one patient only.

Suture needles are another type of surgical needle, and what most people think of when they think of surgical needles. These needles are used to place sutures in wounds, ranging from tiny needles used in vascular repair to larger ones used to place stitches to repair skin lacerations. While suturing is not the only option for wound repair, it is a commonly used option, and has a number of advantages. Sutures that will gradually absorb during wound healing can be used, or surgeons can use suture materials which will need to be removed after healing, depending on the wound and the situation.

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Suturing needles can be straight, curved, or almost round, depending on where they are meant to be used. Many come pre-threaded with a suture which matches the surgical needle, while others may need to be threaded by hand. Pre-threaded needles which come in their own sterile packages are very popular, as they are less traumatic to the tissue of the patient, and they are very easy to keep sterile, a critical need in an operating room.

When a surgical needle is used for suturing, it is held in a device called a needle holder, rather than being used by hand. The holder is used to increase stability, ensuring that sutures are placed in the right places and that the suturing process is very carefully controlled. Surgeons have a choice of needles with several different tips including cutting, blunt point, and tapered needles for various types of applications, and they can also choose between needles of differing thicknesses. Generally, the smaller the needle, the better, with less chance of damage and scarring.

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