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What are Allis Forceps?

By Sandra Koehler
Updated Feb 07, 2024
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Forceps are hinged, handheld medical instruments used to grasp or hold objects. Using the principle of levers, forceps can seize an object and apply pressure. Allis forceps have inward-curving blades and a ratcheted handle. This design makes it ideal to grab fascia and tendons.

Fascia is a sheet or band of connective tissue, or fibrous tissue, which surrounds the organs, blood vessels, muscles, bones and nerves. It is an uninterrupted web to maintain structure, provide support and act as a shock absorber. The fascia is also the body’s second line of defense against infection.

A tendon is another type of fibrous connective tissue. Its main purpose is to connect the muscle to the bones. This connection allows for the muscles and the tendons to work together to exert a force so the body can move.

Allis forceps come in variety of shapes and sizes. There are even one-piece and modular styles available. The shape, size and type of blade depends on the nature of the medical procedure. Most forceps are made of high-grade steel that can withstand repeat sterilization techniques for multiple uses.

Allis forceps come in sizes typically ranging from delicate, or just over five inches (12.7 cm), to ten inches (25.4 cm). The size of the blades and teeth can also vary. This variation in sizes allows the forceps to be used in many different surgical procedures.

There are two types of forceps. Non-locking forceps can come with a hinge at one end, similar to a pair or tweezers, or hinged in the middle, similar to a pair of scissors. Locking forceps can be hinged in the middle or close to the grasping end. These forceps are used when the surface to be grasped needs to be locked into position.

Allis forceps are typically designed with serrated jaws or blades. These non-traumatic teeth-like structures allow the tissue to be firmly held without damage. It also allows for the tissue to be retracted, or moved. Retraction of the fascia is often necessary when attempting surgical procedures on the internal organs. It allows for an unobstructed view, and permits clear access to the underlying structures.

Allis forceps give surgeons the freedom to access internal organs and structures with minimal damage to the overlying tissues. These forceps can grasp, hold, move or lock a tissue into a specific position so the surgeon can concentrate on the area requiring the surgical procedure. The locking and non-locking options give surgeons more options and flexibility.

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Discussion Comments
By Domido — On Jun 18, 2011

Huh, so that's what those things are called. Now that I think about it, you tend to see these a lot on medical TV shows, right? Whenever they do one of those gruesome close-ups of surgery, you'll usually see some scissor-like thing hanging off the side holding tissue back -- is this an Allis forceps?

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