A towel clamp is a surgical instrument which is used to secure towels and surgical draping during a medical procedure. In addition to being used in the operating room, towel clamps are also used in procedures in clinics and doctor's offices where drapes are used. For example, when a dentist drapes a patient to prepare for a tooth cleaning, these clamps may be involved. The purpose of the clamp is to make sure that the draping stays in place during the procedure.
The basic towel clamp design includes locking handles and a tip which may be curved or pointed, and may have teeth for traction. To use the clamp, someone opens it, positions it where it is needed, and closes it again. The clamp will hold until someone releases it. The design of the clamp can vary slightly, depending on usage and manufacturer, but is generally easy to use.
In some cases, a towel clamp is disposable, made from a material like plastic. In other instances, the clamps are made from materials like metal which can be sterilized so that the clamps can be reused. Environmentally, the tradeoff between disposable and reusable can be difficult to balance. While disposable clamps generate more waste, sterilizing, cleaning, and storing reusable clamps can require energy and space.
A clamp can be positioned in a number of ways. The clamp may connect two towels, clip to a frame, or in the case of the Backhaus clamp, it can also clamp towels directly to the patient's skin. In this case, the design is intended to allow the clamp to clip without occluding or pinching, to prevent complications during surgery and pain during surgical recovery. However the clamps are used, they prevent unexpected changes of position in the surgical draping, ensuring that the field remains sterile and clear so that the doctor can focus on the task at hand.
Many surgical supply catalogs carry towel clamps, both reusable and disposable, along with other surgical tools and accessories. Some companies manufacture multiuse tools which can be used to clamp towels, occlude IV lines as needed, and perform an array of similar tasks. This reduces the amount of tools which need to be kept on hand by allowing people to use tools for multiple functions. However, people should be careful about utilizing tools for uses they are not designed for, as this can create a safety problem.