Plastic forceps are intended to be disposable.

Forceps or forcipes are a handheld, hinged instrument used for grasping and holding objects. Forceps are used when fingers are too large to grasp small objects or when many objects need to be held at one time while the hands are used to perform a task. The term 'forceps' is used almost exclusively within the medical field. Outside medicine, people usually refer to forceps as tweezers, tongs, pliers, clips or clamps.

'Forceps' can be used as both the singular and plural form of the word. (Example: "I need a forceps.") Also, it is not referred to as a "pair" as one refers to a "pair of scissors". Etymologically, the word derives from the Latin forca, meaning a snare or trap.

Mechanically, forceps employ the principle of the lever to grasp and apply pressure.

Surgical forceps are commonly made of high-grade carbon steel, which ensures they can withstand repeated sterilization in high-temperature autoclaves. Lower quality steel is used in forceps made for other uses. Some forceps, intended to be used once and then discarded, are made of plastic. The invention of surgical forceps is attributed to Stephen Hales[1]

There are two basic types of forceps: non-locking (often called 'thumb forceps' or 'pick-ups') and locking, though these two types come in dozens of specialized forms for various uses. Non-locking forceps also come in two basic forms, hinged at one end, away from the grasping end (colloquially such forceps are called tweezers, though a medical professional would not likely refer to them as such) and hinged in the middle, rather like scissors (though, unlike scissors, forceps are tipped with flat, grasping surfaces rather than interposing blades). Locking forceps are almost always hinged in the middle, though some forms place the hinge very close to the grasping end. Locking forceps use various means to lock the grasping surfaces in a closed position to facilitate manipulation or to independently clamp, grasp or hold an object.


Thumb forceps

Blunt-nosed thumb forceps with serrated tips for increased grip.

Thumb forceps are commonly held between the thumb and two or three fingers of one hand, with the top end resting on the anatomical snuff box at the base of the thumb and index finger. Spring tension at one end holds the grasping ends apart until pressure is applied. This allows one to quickly and easily grasp small objects or tissue to move and release it or to grasp and hold tissue with easily variable pressure. Thumb forceps are used to hold tissue in place when applying sutures, to gently move tissues out of the way during exploratory surgery and to move dressings or draping without using the hands or fingers.

Thumb forceps can have smooth tips, cross-hatched tips or serrated tips (often called 'mouse's teeth'). Common arrangements of teeth are 1×2 (two teeth on one side meshing with a single tooth on the other), 7×7 and 9×9. Serrated forceps are used on tissue; counter-intuitively, teeth will damage tissue less than a smooth surface (you can grasp with less overall pressure). Smooth or cross-hatched forceps are used to move dressings, remove sutures and similar tasks.

Adson tissue forceps

Note the 1×2 "mouse's teeth" on the lower tip.

Adson forceps.svg

Locking forceps

Locking forceps, sometimes called clamps, are used to grasp and hold objects or tissue. When they are used to compress an artery to forestall bleeding they are called hemostats. Another form of locking forceps is the needle holder, used to guide a suturing needle through tissue. Many locking forceps use finger loops to facilitate handling (see illustration, below, of Kelly Forceps). The finger loops are usually grasped by the thumb and middle or ring fingers, while the index finger helps guide the instrument.

The most common locking mechanism is a series of interlocking teeth located near the finger loops. As the forceps are closed, the teeth engage and keep the instrument's grasping surfaces from separating. A simple shift of the fingers is all that is needed to dis-engage the teeth and allow the grasping ends to move apart. Forceps are also used for surgery.

Kelly forceps

Kelly forceps, shown closed and open

Kelly forceps are a type of hemostat usually made of stainless steel. They resemble a pair of scissors with the blade replaced by a blunted grip. They also feature a locking mechanism to allow them to act as clamps. Kelly forceps may be floor grade (regular use) and as such not used for surgery. They may also be sterilized and used in operations, in both human and veterinary medicine. They may be either curved or straight. In surgery, they may be used for occluding blood vessels, manipulating [tissues], or for assorted other purposes. They are named for Howard Atwood Kelly, M.D., first professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Johns Hopkins. The "Mosquito" variant of the tool is more delicate and has smaller, finer tips. Other varieties with similar, if more specialized, uses are Allis clamps, Babcocks, Kockers, Carmalts, and tonsils; all but the last bear the names of the surgeons who designed them.

Medical forceps

Here are few categories that are commonly used:

  • Anesthesia forceps
  • Artery forceps
  • Atraumatic forceps
  • Biopsy forceps
  • Bone-cutting forceps
  • Bone-holding forceps
  • Bulldogs forceps
  • Catheter forceps
  • Cilia forceps
  • Curettes forceps
  • Cushing forceps
  • Dermal forceps & nippers
  • Dressing forceps
  • Ear forceps
  • Eye forceps
  • Gallbladder forceps
  • Hemostatic forceps
  • Hysterectomy forceps
  • Intestinal forceps
  • Microsurgery forceps
  • Nasal forceps
  • Obstetrical forceps
  • Postmortem forceps
  • Splinter forceps
  • Sponge forceps
  • Sterilizer forceps
  • Suture sundries forceps
  • Tenaculum forceps
  • Thoracic forceps
  • Thoracic surgical forceps
  • Thumb forceps
  • Tissue forceps
  • Tongue forceps
  • Tooth extracting forceps
  • Tubing forceps
  • Uterine forceps
  • Vusellum forceps
  • Wire cutting forceps


  1. ^ Scientific American inventions and discoveries By Rodney P. Carlisle

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  • forceps — [ fɔrsɛps ] n. m. • 1692; mot lat. « pinces » ♦ Instrument obstétrical en forme de pinces à branches séparables (cuillères), qui sert à saisir la tête du fœtus pour en faciliter l expulsion lors de certains accouchements. ⇒ fer. Accoucher au… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • forceps — FÓRCEPS, forcepsuri, s.n. Instrument de obstetrică în formă de cleşte, care serveşte, în cazul naşterilor grele, la scoaterea copilului viu din pântecele mamei. – Din fr. forceps. Trimis de zaraza joe, 13.09.2007. Sursa: DEX 98  FÓRCEPS s.… …   Dicționar Român

  • forceps — fórceps fórceps m. instrum. Aparato obstétrico que permite la extracción del feto por vía vaginal en los partos difíciles; consta de dos ramas con las que se ejerce presión y tracción sobre la cabeza fetal. Medical Dictionary. 2011. forceps …   Diccionario médico

  • Forceps — For ceps, n. [L. forceps, cipis, from the root of formus Hot + capere to take; akin to E. heave. Cf. {Furnace}.] 1. A pair of pinchers, or tongs; an instrument for grasping, holding firmly, or exerting traction upon, bodies which it would be… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Forceps — (lat. für Zange ) ist die Fachbezeichnung für eine medizinische Zange die Kurzbezeichnung für eine Geburtszange als Forceps frontalis (minor) und Forceps occipitalis (major) ein Teil des Corpus callosum …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • FORCEPS — inventum Cinyrae Agriopâ geniti, Plin. l. 7. c. 56. an Vulcani, qui proin cum forcipe spectatur, in nummo L. Caesii, de quo supra: cum in usum innocentem diu valuisset, postmodum saevitiae instrumentum esse coepit, et reis cruciandis, Martyribus… …   Hofmann J. Lexicon universale

  • fórceps — ‘Instrumento médico en forma de tenaza, especialmente el que se usa en los partos difíciles’. Es invariable en plural (→ plural, 1f): los fórceps. No es correcta la grafía sin tilde ⊕ forceps (→ tilde2, 1.1.2) …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • fórceps — (plural fórceps) sustantivo masculino 1. Área: medicina Instrumento con forma de tenazas que se emplea para facilitar la salida del niño en los partos: La mala utilización del fórceps puede originar lesiones cerebrales. 2. Área: medicina… …   Diccionario Salamanca de la Lengua Española

  • fórceps — (Del lat. forceps, tenaza). 1. m. Med. Instrumento en forma de tenaza, que se usa para la extracción de las criaturas en los partos difíciles. U. t. en sent. fig. Sacarle algo a alguien con fórceps. 2. Instrumento en forma de tenaza usado para la …   Diccionario de la lengua española

  • forceps — (n.) 1560s, from L. forceps pair of tongs, pincers, compound of formus hot (see WARM (Cf. warm) (adj.)) + root of capere to hold, take (see CAPABLE (Cf. capable)). Originally a smith s implement. The classical plural is forcipes …   Etymology dictionary

  • fórceps — s. m. 2 núm. 1.  [Cirurgia] Instrumento com que se agarram corpos se querem extrair. 2. Instrumento com que se extrai o feto do útero.   ‣ Etimologia: latim forceps, cipis, torquês, tenaz …   Dicionário da Língua Portuguesa

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