By in General

Instruments 101: on the inside

We’ve previously looked at opening and closing tissue, and we did a specialist ‘orthopaedic’ 101 blog too. Now let’s look at some of the surgical instruments that are used once we have opened the tissue, and are performing the operation. We are going to focus on retractors and holders today.


Retractors are used to either hold an opening open or to hold tissue out of the way. This helps improve visibility and also helps access to the area, so surgeons can work easily. Some retractors need to be held by hand, others are self-retracting. Some clamp to a frame, like a big ring retractor, whereas some are smaller and can be handheld. Most procedures will require retractors of some sort – the type chosen will depend on the procedure, size of the opening and what is being retracted (tissue or bone.) Some examples are shown below:

Bookwalter Retractor
Smaller Retractor
Self Retaining Retractor
Here’s an example of a smaller hand held self retaining retractor. This has a ratchet mechanism, and would be used to hold open a smaller opening than the Bookwalter. These are available in a variety of styles and sizes.

Holding Devices

There are different types of holders, such as needle holders or tissue holders, allowing surgeons to perform delicate tasks or simultaneous tasks with ease.  These instruments usually have ratchets which allow them to be self-retaining, and there are different designs and sizes available.   

Here’s a Crilewood Needleholder. These have gold handles, which means that they have strong tungsten carbide (TC) inserts on the working surfaces. You’ll see needles and swabs are counted at the start and end of procedures, to ensure everything is accounted for.
These products (and more) can all be found in the Surgical Holding catalogues, which are available to download from the website. Alternatively you can have a paper copy delivered by your local representative, or you can request a copy by emailing:

Remember we have a warehouse full of instruments, ready to show you. So if it’s possible (and visiting restriction aren’t in place) please contact us to arrange a visit. We can bring a large selection of products to show you, and love to conduct free training sessions in hospitals. Just tell us what you’d like to see, and we’ll bring it along!

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