What is a Tenaculum?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 12 September 2019
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A tenaculum is a surgical instrument which is used to grasp and hold tissues. The tenaculum is a form of locking forceps, designed to hold itself in place once it has been locked, and it can be used to hold tissues steady for surgical procedures, to hold tissues out of the way, or to grasp tissues for the purpose of manipulating them. Many companies which manufacture surgical instruments produce tenaculum forceps in a variety of styles for various uses.

This surgical instrument dates to at least the 1600s, with the name for the instrument coming from a Latin root which means “to hold,” the same root involved in words like “tenacious.” The tenaculum consists of long, narrow handles attached to hooks. The hooks can be anchored in the tissue being examined, with the medical provider locking the handles once the desired position has been obtained.

One of the most common uses of the tenaculum is in procedures when it is necessary to stabilize the cervix in order to see or perform a procedure. A cervical tenaculum may be made from plastic, designed to be single use for one patient only, or from stainless steel, in which case it can be sterilized and reused. Tenaculum forceps are also used in other types of surgical procedures.


Like other surgical instruments, the tenaculum can seem slightly barbaric in action, but the patient will not feel it when it is placed as long as he or she is under general anesthesia. In cases where the patient is awake, as for certain gynecological procedures, local anesthetics may be injected so that the patient cannot feel the placement and removal of the instrument. The patient is also usually given a medication which promotes relaxation so that he or she will feel more comfortable during the procedure.

Learning to use surgical instruments appropriately takes time. During the course of surgical training, doctors learn about the different instruments available to them, the uses recommended for various instruments, and the techniques which should be used to handle them. Although patients cannot feel instruments during surgery, poor instrument choice or use can complicate matters for the patient by inadvertently causing damage to the tissues, which can increase healing time or increase the risk of infection. Surgeons also tend to develop their own instrument technique over the course of their careers, developing various tricks and methods which facilitate their work in the operating room.


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Post 1

Very few doctors offer anesthetic such as benzocaine or even ibuprofen during endometrial biopsy with the use of a tenaculum.

This is traumatic and unethical. Can your company come up with an alternative? Perhaps a tenaculum impregnated with numbing agents.

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