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What are Tissue Forceps?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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Tissue forceps are forceps which have been designed to grip tissue. The ends of the forceps are equipped with small teeth which act to grasp the tissue under consideration, allowing people to manipulate it as needed.

In dissections, tissue forceps can be used to tease apart tissue to create a clearer view of the area under examination. They are also used when it is necessary to strip tissue away, or to lift tissue from an area of interest. Using forceps is more delicate than using some other types of tools, minimizing the risk of damage to the specimen. This can be critical when samples are under evaluation to find the cause for a medical problem, as hasty dissection can destroy material which may be important.

Botanists regularly use tissue forceps in plant anatomy studies and to manipulate tissue under the microscope. Zoologists and pathologists who handle human remains use tissue forceps in the same way, handling specimens with these forceps and using them to assist with dissection. Several styles are available, from very delicate versions which minimize damage to larger, heavier styles which can be used to quickly strip away tissue.

In veterinary and human surgeries, tissue forceps are used to manipulate tissue in a variety of ways, from holding tissue out of the way to clear a surgical site to handling specimens removed for analysis by a pathologist. Forceps used in surgery must be sterilized in an autoclave so that they are safe for the patient, and they are included in the log of instruments and other surgical tools such as drapes and sponges maintained during the surgery so that instruments can be counted out at the end to confirm that nothing has been left inside the patient.

In medical treatment, tissue forceps are sometimes used to manipulate tissue. For example, when a patient presents at an emergency room with a jagged cut, forceps might be used as the cut is cleaned, dressed, and sewn; the forceps can do everything from gently peeling tissue away to check the inside of the wound to aligning the tissue so that the stitches will be even and straight, minimizing abnormal healing which could impede the patient's range of motion.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By jcraig — On Jul 17, 2011

@matthewc23 - Whew, I've been looking all over the internet for those, and you found it for me.

Still, no one in the house knows where they came from, but at least now I know what they are for. I guess it's possible a repairman left them at some point. I'm not sure what I would ever use them for around the house, but I'll keep them anyway. Has anyone else here ever used them for anything?

By matthewc23 — On Jul 16, 2011

@jcraig - It sounds to me like you are describing a hemostat. Look up a picture and see if that is what you found.

They are indeed used in medicine. I believe most of the time they are used in surgeries to clamp an artery shut or to hold equipment in place. I'm sure they probably have other uses, too.

I hope that was what you needed.

By jcraig — On Jul 15, 2011

Maybe someone can help me. I've looked online in a few places, but haven't really found my answer.

I was cleaning out our junk drawer and found something that has handles like scissors, and the end looks like a pair of curved forceps. Down toward the base, there are a set of grooves that let the pliers lock into place.

Any search I do for locking pliers or forceps comes up with everything besides these. What are they? They look like they are used in the medical field, but I'm not sure. No one is sure where they came from, either.

By TreeMan — On Jul 15, 2011

Whenever I got stitches, the doctor uses a pair of forceps to keep the skin in the right spot during the process. The cut was on the palm of my hand, and he wanted to make sure everything was aligned. After I got the stitches out after a week, it looked great. Now you can hardly tell I cut myself.

By JimmyT — On Jul 14, 2011

@Emilski - Great ideas. When I was younger, I used to build a lot of plastic models. Tweezers or forceps were excellent for holding onto the tiny pieces while I was painting them or gluing them into place. They even come in different shapes for different uses. I had the normal straight pair as well as a curved pair.

When I was taking biology classes, forceps were a must. When we were dissecting anything it always helped to hold the skin tight with the forceps and then use a scalpel or pair of scissors to make the cut.

By Emilski — On Jul 13, 2011

No home should be without a set of forceps. They are one of the handiest things you can have around. Most of the time in the home, they will be called tweezers. Any woman who plucks her eyebrows will have a good pair, but you can also use them for anything from removing a splinter to grabbing items from under the seat of your car. I even had a friend who wrapped a rubber band around the end and used a pair as a hair clip in an emergency.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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