Surgical Retractors: Types & Uses

Surgical retractors (an orthopedic instrument) help surgeons and operating room professionals hold an incision or wound open during surgical procedures. They aid in holding back underlying tissues or organs, allowing doctors/ nurses better visibility and access to the exposed area.

The right medical device lighting and retractor will bring light and comfort directly into the surgical cavity where it is needed. If you are a physician, surgical rotation can be strenuous on your arms and if you are a patient you want the best care.

Retractors play an important role in surgery. Now, they are available in different shapes, sizes, and designs. Surgical retractor lighting could allow orthopedic surgeons to better navigate in deep or minimally open cavities. Better visibility during and at the end of surgery is useful to both the patient and surgical team.

Most surgical instruments can be categorized into 4 basic types:

1.      Cutting and Dissecting
2.      Clamping and Occluding
3.      Retracting and exposing
4.      Grasping and Holding

In this article, further on we will discuss some of the instruments used today with their similarities and differences.

Surgical Retractors and their Use in the Surgeries. Surgical retractors are not all created equal and it is necessary to choose the right one.

Two broad categories of retractors are-

1.      Hand Retractors- (Manual) must be held by a robot, an assistant, the surgeon during a procedure.
2.      Self-Retaining Retractors- (Stay open for their own) have a bone screw, or some type of clamp to hold the tissue by itself. These allow the surgeon with two free hands.

Retractors fall under the “Retracting and Exposing” orthopedic instruments used in the OR. The various types of retractors are generally named after the organ which they are used in conjunction with.

For example, retractors which are used to retract an abdomen, are called abdominal retractors or self-retaining abdominal retractors. If it is your skin being handled, there are specific retractors.
All the retractors are of great value and needed by the medical profession.

Common Hand -held Retractors (Manual)

1.      Senn- It is a handheld, double-ended retractor used to retract primarily surface tissue. “Mostly used in plastic surgery, dissection of neck tissue, small bone and joint procedures, or thyroidectomy.

2.      Army- Navy- Used to retract superficial or shallow incisions. From small wounds to abdominal operations.

3.      Ribbon (Malleable)- Used to retract deep wounds. May be bent to various shapes to support in holding back tissue.

4.      Hohmann- used in orthopedics to expose bone for procedures.

5.      Farabeuf- It is a versatile handheld retractor that is used in multiple procedures. It may be used in dentistry, hand and wrist procedures, or in hernia repair to name a few.

6.      Meyerding- Frequently used to hold back muscle and tissue in spinal and neurosurgical procedures such as laminectomy.

7.      Deaver- Used to retract chest or deep abdominal incisions. Used in Cholecystectomy (removal of gallbladder) for retraction of right lobe of liver. Used in Truncal vagotomy (part of the main trunk of the vagus nerve) for retraction of left lobe of liver.

8.      Richardson- Retract chest or abdominal incisions. Used for holding back several layers of deep tissue. This is one of the most commonly used retractors.

Self-Retaining Retractors (Hold their position and once set in place)

1.      Weitlaner- It is a popular orthopedic instrument, most commonly used in basic plastic surgery, large bone and joint procedures.
2.      Balfour Abdominal Retractor- Retractwoundedgesduring procedures of deep abdominal.

3.      Finochietto Rib Retractor (rib spreader) precisely designed to separate ribs in thoracic surgery.

4.      Hip Retractor System- Siora Surgicals has a huge selection of surgical instruments for every specialty. We are the top-rated orthopedic instrument suppliers and manufacturer. The self-retaining hip retractor helps to free assisting personnel while providing excellent exposure during hip fracture surgery and hip arthroplasty.

5.      Gelpi- Retract shallow incisions. Mostly used in smaller surgical sites. Common in spine surgery.

Talking about spinal surgery, there are three possible approaches to the spine during a surgical procedure. The surgeon’s approach to the spine impacts the kind of orthopedicinstruments that will be used for the procedure.

If you ever experienced severe back pain and needed relief, you might have heard of these options-

3 different approaches to spine surgery:

1.      Anterior- from the spine’s front
2.      Posterior- from the spine’s back
3.      Lateral- on the spine’s side

The lateral approach uses minimally invasive instruments. It is used to treat back or leg pain usually caused by degenerative disc disease.

The procedure is performed from the patient’s side, avoiding the major muscles of the back. The procedure was once traditionally performed with a large incision on the back, stripping muscles away from the spine. It usually meant longer down time. 
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