What is a Trocar?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2019
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A trocar is a surgical instrument with a sharp point which is used to create a hole in the body which can be used to introduce surgical tools. Trocars are most commonly attached to tubes known as cannulas, with surgical tools being passed down the cannula, through the trocar, and into the body. Trocars are widely used in laparoscopic surgery procedures. They are also utilized by the funeral industry, during the embalming process.

Although trocars are traditionally sharp, the blade can come in a number of styles, from the classic three pointed blade on a traditional trocar to a blunt blade on a non-bladed version of the instrument. Trocars can also be shielded, with small shields which click into place to prevent damage to a patient's internal organs after the trocar has been inserted. These devices are often designed to be single use, with the trocar discarded after use in a patient.


One use for the trocar in human and animal medicine is for aspiration. If a patient has a buildup of fluid or gas, a trocar can be quickly inserted and connected to an aspiration tube to remove the buildup. This can greatly increase comfort for the patient, acting as an emergency intervention to stabilize the patient until a doctor can determine what caused the buildup and address the problem. In laparoscopic surgery and surgical procedures on the veins and arteries, trocars are used as ports, creating a point of entry for tools used during the surgery. After the surgery is finished, the device is carefully removed and small stitches are put in place.

Trocars come in a range of sizes, designed for various applications. A surgical trocar may be quite large, to allow for the introduction of surgical tools, and the surgeon can usually select from several styles and sizes to find the most appropriate tool for a procedure. Various devices can also be attached to the instrument, such as aspiration machines, ports used for the delivery of medicine, and so forth.

In the embalming process used to prepare bodies for burial, the trocar is used to gain venous access for arterial embalming. Once the embalming is complete, another trocar connected to an aspiration machine is inserted into the abdomen to drain gas and fluids. This is designed to prevent bloating of the body, as the embalming process does not halt the process of decomposition, only slowing it considerably.


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Post 4

@wesley91- I have worked as an emergency room nurse for 12 years and see these types of cases quite often.

Most medical emergencies that would require a chest tube placement are things such as a pneumothorax, hemothorax, or a hemo-pneumo thorax.

In a pneumothorax, there is a collection of air in the pleural space. This doesn’t necessarily have to be from a traumatic event. There have been several cases that I have seen where the person just had a collapsed lung, leading to a pneumothorax, and had not had an injury. However, most of the time, a pneumothorax is secondary to some type of trauma to the chest area.

A hemothorax is blood, instead of air, in

the pleural space. This is usually from a traumatic injury or post-surgery.

In these cases, a trocar chest tube would need to be inserted immediately to aspirate the air or blood. The hospital that I work for prefers to use the trocar rather than the other types.

Post 3

In what type of trauma situations would you need a "trocar" used on you? I mean, if you must have a chest tube placed, what does that mean?

Post 2

@snowywinter- The trocar is one of a few types of instruments used to do a chest tube for trauma patients. If the patient needs a chest tube placed, they would use the trocar tube, operative tube, or a Seldinger, which is like a guide-wire.

If using the Trocar tube, the incision is parallel to the rib. It is quick and easy to insert but there is a danger of impaling the lung so one must be very careful if inserting this type of tube.

Post 1

Is a trocar the same thing as the instrument that is used in trauma patients when they have to have a chest tube put in? I used to watch a show called "Trauma: Life in the ER" and I remember them having patients come in and immediately have to have a chest tube to release fluid or blood. Just wondering if that is the same thing.

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