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What Are Forceps? - Definition & Types

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  • 0:00 Definition of Forceps
  • 0:34 Types of Forceps
  • 1:36 History and Uses of Forceps
  • 2:50 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jayne Yenko

Jayne has taught health/nutrition and education at the college level and has a master's degree in education.

What do you think of when you hear the word 'forceps'? Would you be surprised to find that you probably use a form of forceps in your daily life? Discover more information about these handy tools.

Definition of Forceps

When we hear the word forceps, many of us think of an instrument used to extract a baby from the birth canal. But this is just one of many types of forceps. In actuality, forceps are used in several types of medical and dental procedures.

Forceps are medical instruments that act as pincers or tweezers. They are often used to grab, manipulate, or remove tissue or teeth from the body. Sometimes spaces are too small for human-sized hands, and forceps can apply force and/or pressure, such as during a tooth extraction, where fingers would be useless.

Types of Forceps

There are two basic types of forceps: locking and non-locking. The locking ones are often used as clamps, or hemostats, in surgery. They are hinged, like scissors, but the hinge can be in different positions, depending on the purpose of a particular forceps. In the list of examples we're about to cover, the tissue forceps hinge is more in the middle, while the hinge for the dental extracting forceps is closer to the head of the tool.

Some of the various types of forceps are listed here:

  • Adson forceps
  • Allis forceps
  • Bulldogs forceps
  • Dissecting forceps
  • Extracting forceps
  • Hemostatic forceps
  • Kocher's forceps
  • Obstetric forceps
  • Overholt forceps
  • Pennington forceps
  • Punch forceps
  • Slotted Foerster forceps

Surgeons often name their instruments after themselves, which doesn't tell us much about the tool or its intended purpose. Dissecting or extracting tell us much more about what the tool is used for, and there are many designs for the same job.

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