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What are Cutting Forceps?

By T. E. Snow
Updated May 17, 2024
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Forceps are a pair of hand-held tongs or pinchers that are used for holding, grasping, or clamping items that would be difficult or impossible to grasp with the fingers due to size or delicacy. Cutting forceps are a specific kind of forceps that is used most often to hold tissue during surgery. This type of forceps typically has cutting blades on the grasping portion of the instrument.

The term "forceps" is rarely used outside of the medical profession. Outside of medicine, forceps are usually referred to as pliers, tongs, tweezers, clips, or clamps. There are two basic kinds of forceps: non-locking and locking. Within these designations there are dozens of different forms of forceps, depending on their required use.

Non-locking forceps are often called "thumb forceps," and generally come in two forms that may be hinged at one end, like a pair of tweezers, or hinged in the middle like a pair of scissors. Unlike scissors, however, regular forceps do not have vertical slicing blades like scissors. Instead, they generally close onto flat, horizontal planes.

Locking forceps are usually hinged in the middle or toward the grasping end, and have a mechanism that allows the forceps to be locked in a certain position. This type of forceps is used most often in the medical practice during surgery on delicate areas that require pinching or manipulation to hold the areas together or to prevent liquid from escaping. Cutting forceps are usually a type of locking forceps and have the same general shape and construction as locking forceps. Instead of a sharp, needle-nosed point like tweezers or the curved and ridged nose of hemostatic forceps, cutting forceps have two sharp, cutting blades opposite of the handholds.

Different types of cutting forceps include bayonet, cupped, cutting, dilating, grasping, punch, scoopless, serrated, and sidebiter forceps. All have different shapes and uses in the medical field, and may be used during heart, dental, oral, or facial surgeries, as well as in the delivery of babies. Most often, cutting forceps are designed to allow them to function simultaneously as a grasping and cutting tool. They often include a spring-loaded design that allows a surgeon to grasp sensitive areas and make a cut in that area without the two ends of the object flying apart. This can be crucial during delicate surgeries where nerves, tendons, and bones must be operated on with the utmost caution and care.

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