What is a Towel Clamp? (with pictures)

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon
Dentists may utilize towel clamps.
Dentists may utilize towel clamps.

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.

Surgical tools need to be sterilized and prepped for the next surgery.
Surgical tools need to be sterilized and prepped for the next surgery.

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.

Surgical tools made of metal can be sterilized for reuse.
Surgical tools made of metal can be sterilized for reuse.

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 towel clamp is a surgical instrument which is used to secure towels and surgical draping during a medical procedure.
A towel clamp is a surgical instrument which is used to secure towels and surgical draping during a medical procedure.

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.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

Mor

There are probably patented towel clamp designs out there.

From what I understand a lot of medical equipment is designed by doctors who really wanted something that would perform a particular task.

Probably they did start out with something like pegs, but as surgery became more exact, and hygiene became important they began getting specialized clamps made from better materials.

A scapel was probably originally just a knife that doctors modified over time to be more useful, until they came across the currently accepted design.

You can probably see the ancestors of these tools in medical museums.

lluviaporos

I find it really interesting how many different kinds of specialized tools are used in surgery. Towel clamps are a good example. It always makes me wonder how these tool are developed. They must be used all over the world, does someone have a patent on them?

Or are they just like pegs or, I don't know, a hammer in that they are so obvious and have been around so long that they aren't patented.

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    • Dentists may utilize towel clamps.
      Dentists may utilize towel clamps.
    • Surgical tools need to be sterilized and prepped for the next surgery.
      Surgical tools need to be sterilized and prepped for the next surgery.
    • Surgical tools made of metal can be sterilized for reuse.
      Surgical tools made of metal can be sterilized for reuse.
    • A towel clamp is a surgical instrument which is used to secure towels and surgical draping during a medical procedure.
      A towel clamp is a surgical instrument which is used to secure towels and surgical draping during a medical procedure.