Ring forceps, also sometimes called sponge forceps or Foerster sponge forceps, are metal instruments used in medicine and science lab settings to hold or grasp objects. They get the “ring” part of their name from the basic shape of their handles and the “sponge” part comes from how often they’re used to grasp and hold sponges during surgical procedures. Surgeons use them routinely during operations, and they are also quite common in many scientific labs. At first glance, they often look a lot like scissors since they have looped handles that attach to two long metal arms. The arms aren’t blades, though; rather, they are designed to grasp and grip things that would be either too small or too slippery for fingers.
These tools are similar in design to tongs, clamps, and tweezers, and in most cases they’re made with high-grade carbon steel that can be sterilized with very hot water, steam, or chemical solutions. They won’t usually erode or rust, and in most cases they sterilize completely — which means that they can be safely used with sensitive things like bodily fluids or solutions that are toxic or hazardous.
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In terms of construction, they usually consist of two long, flat pieces of metal that are connected by a hinge. Loop handles usually feature on one end, with ringed or looped jaws on the other. These ringed jaw ends can be curved or straight and may have smooth or serrated surfaces, depending on what they’re designed to do. The ringed ends allow a surgeon or scientist to grab and hold sensitive materials with what’s called an “atraumatic grip,” which shouldn’t cause damage.
Ring forceps are often found in scientific labs. Researchers conducting experiments frequently need a way to hold different particles apart or separate items in a group, but can’t always reach in and do that separating directly. These tools give them the ability to closely grasp and manipulate samples without damaging their integrity. Some of the most common applications include dissections, live sample studies, and forensics work, though there are many more possibilities.
By far the most frequent use is in medical surgeries. Surgeons and surgical nurses often use varying sizes of ring-style forceps to do everything from hold tissues apart and isolate problem areas. Their ease of use and precise application makes them a staple in a number of different procedures. They can easily manipulate tissue and do not cause significant damage in the process.
Among other things, surgeons use this tool to hold soft organs like the bladder, remove stuck membranes, and clamp tissues to stop bleeding. These sorts of forceps are also commonly used to hold and examine the cervix after childbirth and assist in the repair of any tissue tears that may have happened during labor. Other uses for ring forceps include grasping and removing polyps during a polypectomy, holding cotton balls during tissue biopsies, and holding gauze, sponges and other delicate medical supplies used during surgical procedures.
Additionally, coated ring forceps are commonly used in loop electrosurgical excision procedures (LEEP), which can remove problematic cells and lesions for further testing. The procedure uses an electrified wire to detach abnormal tissue, and the coated rings then help to safely remove that tissue from the body.
Other Similar Tools
Ring-style forceps are just one of many related tools in the forceps family. Some are interchangeable, depending on the task at hand. Thumb forceps or Adson tissue forceps look like tweezers. They have serrated tips that allow for a better grip. They are used to pick up small objects, move wound dressings, and manipulate body tissue during exploratory surgery.
Clamp forceps also resemble scissors, with ringed handles and a narrow tip. Also called hemostats, or locking forceps, they are used to clamp arteries and veins during surgery to stop blood flow and to hold suture needles while stitching up a wound. Other types of forceps also are used during childbirth to assist with delivery. Obstetric forceps, for instance, have two long jaws that are curved to fit around the baby's head. They are used to gently move the head of the child if it is tilted in the wrong direction during birth, and to guide the head through the birth canal.