Circumcision clamps are devices that are used to hold the foreskin of the penis in place, or to cut off circulation to the foreskin so that it dies and falls off. Two common circumcision clamps, the Gomco® and Mogen® clamps are widely used, but there are others which simply hold the foreskin in place while it is removed with a surgical scalpel. These are not used as often, although the circumcision method used will typically depend on the doctor performing the surgery.
The most commonly used circumcision clamps are designed to protect the penis as the foreskin is stretched and pulled through an opening. It is then clamped and held for several minutes until blood flow to the foreskin is stopped, and the tissues die and fall away. These clamps were designed to help do away with the use of sutures and the lengthy healing times associated with more conventional surgical methods. In most cases, these clamps are successful, and there is minimal damage to the penis. In some extreme cases, however, injury or serious complications can occur.
In 2000, the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning about the use of Gomco® and Mogen® clamps because of the risk of infection and serious injury. There had been reports of accidental penile amputation, and cases where too much of the foreskin had been removed. Other cases of infection were also reported. It was determined that the majority of these cases were caused by doctors who were using ill-fitting circumcision clamps, or mixing and matching parts of the clamps that did not go together well enough for effective use. Since the warning, these reports have gone down in number.
Some circumcision clamps are used simply to hold the foreskin in place while a doctor cuts it off with a scalpel. Although less commonly used, these clamps are still sold as of the time of this writing. No matter which type of clamp is used, the risk of injury and extreme pain is present. With all clamps, the foreskin must be forcefully removed from the penis and fully retracted for removal. This can cause abrasions, bleeding, and pain in infants, who are usually not given anesthesia due to the risk of complications.
The Jewish religion requires circumcision of males in infancy as part of their rituals, but clamps are not permitted to be used. They argue that the risk for pain and complications is too great when using these devices. A traditional tool is used instead, and Jewish leaders claim that it causes very little pain or risk of injury when used by a trained practitioner.