From ArticleWorld

A forceps is a hand-held medical tool used in several areas of medicine to grab onto something or to hold something. They operate similarly to tongs or tweezers and vary in shape or size depending on its purpose.


A standard forceps used in emergency medicine is sometimes called a “pick-ups” and can come with or without teeth. They look much like a tweezers. A forceps can have a roughened surface at the end to better grasp tissue, can be rounded on the end or can be extremely sharp on the end.

Round-ended forceps are difficult to use in delicate surgery or the repair of wounds as they are clumsy and don’t often fit into the wound. Those without teeth are gentle on tissues but slip off easily. Forceps with teeth have interconnecting sharp points between the two ends of the tweezers that can pierce the tissue and hold better but have the disadvantage of causing more possible tissue damage.

Specialized forceps have a long corrugated surface between the two halves and look much like a small scissors but have a special clamp that can grab tissue or a needle and hold onto it until the user releases the clamp. A forceps used to hold needles is called a “needle holder”. Splinter forceps are very pointed and can grab tiny imbedded objects.

In surgery, all of the above forceps are used along with larger forceps that look more like tongs. They are called dressing forceps and are used to open surgical packages and move things around. A Kelly forceps is a common forceps that can clamp onto tissue and “mark” it for later use. It also takes the place of the surgeon’s hands when moving tissues around.

Obstetrical forceps

In obstetrics, large forceps of different styles are equipped with roughly circular grabbing ends that, when the two halves of the forceps are clamped together, they roughly form the shape of an infants head. An episiotomy is generally required for the forceps to be applied. One half is placed alongside one side of the infant head and the other half is placed on the opposite side before the forceps are clamped together.

The obstetrician then generally waits for a contraction and then pulls on the fetal head that is firmly gripped by the forceps to allow for descent of the head through the birth canal. The downsides of using forceps are the pain to the mother, potential damage to the fetus and potential tearing of maternal tissues during the descent of the fetal head with forceps applied to it.