What is a Deaver Retractor?

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  • Written By: Misty Wiser
  • Edited By: Allegra J. Lingo
  • Last Modified Date: 15 October 2019
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A Deaver retractor is a surgical instrument used to hold the edges of an abdominal or chest incision open so that the surgeon is able to reach the underlying organs. It is a thin, flat instrument with curved ends. The curved ends of the retractor are placed at the edges of the incision and held there by hand or clamped into place. The Deaver retractor can be used to hold organs inside the abdominal cavity away from the surgical site.

The earliest recorded use of a retractor dates back to the seventh century. The modern retractor is designed after a model developed in 1936. Deaver retractors were developed to safely hold the large organs contained inside the abdomen away from the surgical instruments used during the operation. During an operation on the thoracic region, the Deaver retractor is used to hold the flesh of the chest away from the incision or to gently move the heart or lungs at the direction of the surgeon.

Making sure the retractor is in good condition is essential to a successful operation. The surgeon will make an incision and direct the assistant to place the retractor on the flesh at the edges of the incision. This medical instrument enables the surgeon to have a clear view of the operating field. The retractor has smoothed edges to reduce the trauma to the tissue being held in place. A Deaver retractor is generally used for deep abdominal and chest surgeries.


There are several different types of retractors. Each is shaped uniquely to do the least damage to the tissue intended to be held back by the retractor. The Richardson retractor is a thin, curved medical instrument with a handle for easy gripping. It is the most common retractor used in abdominal or thoracic surgeries. It can be single or double-ended, depending on the surgical needs of the operation.

Another commonly used retractor is the Senn retractor. It is a double-ended surgical instrument, with one side shaped like a blade and the other side having three prongs. This retractor is used for most hand and foot surgeries. The Senn retractor is used to hold soft flesh away from the surgical site for short periods of time.

Most retractors have a special handle to make holding it in position during surgery easier. Usually, the retractor is held in place by a surgical assistant instead of the surgeon. Use of a retractor enables the surgeon to perform operations faster and with more accuracy.


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Post 2

Different retractors can be used for veterinary purposes. There is a balfour retractor that has three curved loops mounted on a bar. Each of the loops is individually operable. The pediatric size of the balfour retractor is used in procedures to get to the vocal cords when working on horses.

An interesting point, when balfour retractors are sold by online sources who do not have licensing from the FDA to sell surgical tools to be used on humans, the sites must state that the tool is meant for veterinary use.

Post 1

The first time I saw a retractor was in my medical asepsis class. We were learning how to set up sterile trays and got to handle a lot of different surgical tools. I did not have the opportunity to see one of these retractors being used. After learning more about the deaver retractor, I can’t say I am entirely disappointed to not have seen one in action.

I enjoyed the time I spent in the medical field, but this type of intense surgery is not for me. I understand how this tool has a very important role for something like a deep abdominal or chest surgery. I just don’t think I could handle one.

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