What Are Clamp Forceps?

Drue Tibbits

Clamp forceps are a type of tool that can hold, compress, or grasp an item while locking in place. They are also called locking forceps. For instance, clamping forceps allow a heart surgeon to clamp off an artery to prevent bleeding, while the locking mechanism keeps the forceps in place. These types of forceps are used primarily in the medical field in both veterinary and human medicine. There are many variations of sizes, materials, and designs, with some forceps engineered to perform specific functions.

Adson forceps have long, tapered ends, allowing them to handle delicate tissue.
Adson forceps have long, tapered ends, allowing them to handle delicate tissue.

Most of these forceps are shaped like an X and use a lever principle. A hinge at or near the center of the forceps allows the user to squeeze one end to apply pressure at the opposite end. They are similar in action to ordinary scissors, except that the forceps lock in place once they are closed. The clamping, or locking, mechanism is a set of opposing serrated tabs located between the openings for the thumb and forefinger. When the clamp forceps are squeezed, the serrated tabs come into contact with each other and hold the forceps at that pressure; with another slight squeeze, the user breaks the contact, and the forceps open.

The simple locking mechanism, unlike spring clamps, allows for various clamping pressures. A light squeezing pressure can compress delicate tissues without damaging them. Stronger squeezing pressure can be used to compress surgical tubing or hold a tooth during extraction. This variable pressure feature and the ease with which they are placed, locked, and released make clamp forceps one of the most commonly used surgical instruments.

Forceps that are used to clamp off blood vessels are called hemostats. Many forceps are named for the surgeon who designed them. Surgeons sometimes develop these tools to use on specific tissues or during a particular type of procedure. Doctors use Allis forceps to hold intestinal tissue, while Carmalt forceps clamp ovarian pedicals. Adson forceps have long, tapered ends, allowing them to handle delicate tissue.

Several different materials are used to fabricate forceps. Those that are to be used once and then disposed of are made of plastic. Others are made of stainless steel or carbon steel, metals that will survive repeated sterilization. A number of specialty clamp forceps are made of titanian, a durable and lightweight metal. Depending on the use, the grasping end of the forceps may be rubber coated, angled, or grooved.

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