A vascular clamp is a device surgeons use to prevent blood flowing into areas that are being operated on. They are also able to stem the flow of blood from severed or ruptured vessels. The vascular clamps are manufactured in a variety of shapes and materials, typically high-grade surgical stainless steel and durable plastics. They have flat, curved or serrated tips that are clamped onto the vein. The clamp is held in place by a set of metal “teeth” at the top of the device that are squeezed together and then locked into position.
During surgery to treat a brain aneurysm, a carotid artery vascular clamp will likely be used to temporarily halt the blood flow through the carotid artery. An aneurysm occurs when the artery is enlarged due to a weakening in the vessel wall. Damage to the artery itself can sometimes occur if the clamp is fastened too tightly, and because of this the surgical assistant will usually close the clamp slowly and gently. Sometimes a soft vascular clamp will be used. This is where the clamp tips are covered with a material such as foam or rubber.
Some of the clamps used during surgery include the angled iliac, straight aortic, curved aortic, Glover, Fogarty, and Satinsky clamps. Bulldog vascular clamps can also be used and can be straight or curved with a spring device that holds the clamp in place. A surgical assistant will usually be the one to position the clamps by hand. The serrated vascular clamp very often has a non-serrated leading edge that runs the length of the clamp. This prevents damage to the blood vessel that is being held.
A vascular clamp can be used during surgeries such as resection and anastomosis. Resection refers to a procedure where part or all of an organ or tissue is removed. Anastomosis is when two structures, such as two separate blood vessels, are connected. Studies have shown that the Satinsky and Fogarty vascular clamps tended to cause less damage to the arteries than the other clamps. The bulldog rubber clamp was also found to be effective in not causing trauma to the vessels.
Surgeons need to make fast decisions during sensitive procedures such as brain and heart surgery. A vascular clamp can be an essential tool during an emergency situation, such as when arteries have hemorrhaged, or when surgery needs to be performed on a vital organ to keep the patient alive. Even though there is some risk associated with vascular clamping, the importance of these small devices during life saving surgery is clear.