What is a Surgical Clamp?

Gina Ritter

Surgical clamps are tools used by surgeons and medical professionals to cut off blood flow or other fluids during surgery. These tools are used in hospital operating rooms, during many outpatient procedures as well as in-the-field by emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics. There are a variety of surgical clamp styles and sizes to accommodate many applications and functions. The shape of the tip of each tool generally determines what it can be used for, and many are designed for exact procedures.

Tray with surgical tools used during typical operation.
Tray with surgical tools used during typical operation.

A standard surgical clamp is lightweight and made of stainless steel for sterilization and utilitarian purposes. Most clamps can be held like a pair of scissors for easy application. Serrated jaws grip the tissue, vessel, or organ tightly. The handles typically lock together with a row of interlocking teeth that allow the surgeon to choose the amount of tension, or locking pressure, on the tissue or organ being clamped. The lock also allows surgeons to leave a clamp in place, hands-free, during the length of the procedure.

A clamp can be used to stem the blood flow of severed vessels during surgery.
A clamp can be used to stem the blood flow of severed vessels during surgery.

One of the most common surgical clamps is called a hemostat. This clamp is used to line the incision area after surgery begins to stem the blood flow from severed vessels. Though most commonly used to prevent hemorrhaging, surgical clamps are also used to stop other bodily fluids and bacteria from entering or escaping tissues during surgical procedures. Clamps can join tissues together during repair or hold them away from the surgical site for easier access. Larger clamps can be used together to compress an organ or bulky tissue, while micro surgical clamps or clips are used for the smallest blood vessels and in the smallest pediatric cases.

Surgical clamps are used to cut off the flow of blood and other fluids during surgery.
Surgical clamps are used to cut off the flow of blood and other fluids during surgery.

There are many clamp styles in addition to the hemostat. Some surgical clamp tips form a 90-degree angle, while others are slightly curved or look like hooks. The bone clamp is a sturdy, claw-like clamp meant to grasp and hold bone securely. A surgical instrument called the Gomco clamp is used during circumcision and looks more like a claw than a pair of scissors.

The rubber dam clamp, or tooth extracting forceps, are clamps used by dentists. These clamps are made to fit in the oral cavity and grip a small tooth. Another style of clamp is the aortic cross-clamp used during cardiac surgery. This clamp allows the surgeon to put less stress on the aorta and hopefully prevent further damage or neurological injury.

Surgical clamps and other instruments are typically sterilized in an autoclave.
Surgical clamps and other instruments are typically sterilized in an autoclave.

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Discussion Comments


My son works as an emergency medical technician, and he has been trained to use different types of surgical clamps.

It all depends on the situation whether he has to use them or not. Sometimes a situation can be life threatening and other times it is a precautionary measure.

The surgical instruments used in the medical field today are so much better than they were years ago. When I have been to museums and seen some of the old surgical instruments that were used, I am amazed at how many people survived the surgery.

I think the chance of infection from using tools that were not sterilized properly was probably a big risk. Even then, the surgical instruments looked pretty crude and intimidating.


@LisaLou - I understand how you feel when you think about the uses for surgical clamps and instruments.

When my niece was born, they were having trouble getting her head to come down the birth canal. They ended up using surgical forceps on her so they could get her out.

Just the thought of that makes me cringe. Everything turned out OK, so it must have worked liked they hoped it would.

I am just glad the surgeons who are using these instruments have been trained and know what they are doing.

Even if someone was under anesthesia, if they didn't know how to use them properly, a lot of damage could be done.


I am the type of person that doesn't like to see any of the surgical equipment or clamps that are used. If I have to have any kind of surgical procedure done, I like to be completely out.

Even when I go to the dentist, I don't like to look at the tools they use on my teeth. Thankfully they are sterile, but I can almost feel pain just looking at them.

My husband doesn't have any kind of medical background, but he loves watching any kind of surgery or operation, if given the chance.

He could tell you the names and uses of all kinds of surgical scissors and instruments. I don't understand his fascination with this - maybe he should have gone to school to be a doctor.

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