A surgical stapler is a medical device which is used to place surgical staples. Staples are used to close wounds ranging from bowel resections to skin incisions, and they are found widely all over the world in surgical settings. Before having surgery, patients may want to ask their surgeons about which method will be used for wound closure, and if there will be special precautions for after care. Patients should also alert their surgeons to any metal allergies, as surgical staples are usually alloys, and the surgeon will not want to place staples if a patient is allergic to a metal such as nickel.
Surgical staplers were developed in response to concerns about the healing of traditional sutures. Evidence seemed to suggest that sutures were more prone to leaks and separation, although further study indicates that when placed properly, conventional sutures are perfectly safe. However, the development of the surgical stapler also created a number of advantages, including speed, accuracy, and evenness of wound closure, which made the stapler a useful operating room tool. Both stapling and suturing are taught to surgeons, and training about the appropriate settings for each technique is also provided.
There are several surgical stapler designs on the market, intended for different types of staple placement. Some surgeons like to use disposable staplers, which are fitted with disposable cartridges and used on a single patient. Others use reusable staplers made from stainless steel. In this case, a disposable cartridge is used, and the stapler is sterilized after use so that it can be used on another patient. Reusable staplers generate less surgical waste, but energy is required to sterilize them, so the net environmental impact when compared to a disposable product is not very different.
A related tool to the surgical stapler is a clip applier, a device which is used to apply surgical clips. Both clips and staples can be used on many different types of surgical wounds and incisions. Once the healing process is complete, they can be removed. Removal is accomplished with a surgical staple remover which is designed to remove staples with minimal trauma to the surgical site.
On surface wounds, some scarring will be created by the surgical stapler. The site of the incision itself will form a scar, and small scars can form at the sites where staples were inserted. Some techniques can be used to minimize scarring and to promote healing with minimal scarring, and these can be discussed with a surgeon if a patient is concerned about the potential for scars after a surgical procedure.