Surgical Instruments Used for a Cesarean Section

Image by, courtesy of Jurek Durczak

Planning for a cesarean section can be scary for a mother-to-be. However, knowing something about the procedure, like the surgical instruments used for a cesarean section, can ease the anxiety for some.

Students of nursing and those working on medical topics may also need to know a little about the 80 instruments used in a cesarean birth.


Cesarean section instruments can be grouped by type: retractors, clamps, forceps, scalpels, scissors and staplers. Of the retractors, a Richardson retractor and bladder blade are needed. Clamps such as the needle drive, kocher clamps and hemostat are used. Adson, Russian and pick-up forceps with teeth are the forceps used. The general scalpel, scissors and staplers are used for the cesarean section.


Retractors hold organs and tissues out of the surgical field. They also open up incisions. Clamps grasp tissue or hold an incised blood vessel closed. They also hold the umbilical cord closed after it is cut. Forceps grasp and hold tissues and materials. Scalpels and scissors are for cutting and staplers are used to close the cesarean incision after the birth.


Forceps look like scissors with long arms and a small cutting tip. They have a grooved outcropping between the finger holds that locks the forceps in place. Some look like tweezers with teeth at the tips. Clamps can look like the scissor forceps, but with an extra locking mechanism in the place where the scissor-like instrument opens and closes. Retractors are a one-piece steel instrument with a hooked end, a finger ring (loop at the other end) and dimpled place called a finger rest. A scalpel is a sharp blade with a slim, straight handle.


These instruments are used in the delicate procedure of removing a baby from the womb. Cesarean-section instruments must cut through the layers of skin and the womb. Retractors open the area while protecting organs that are not a part of the surgery. Forceps are also used to help remove the child if necessary. Clamps and scissors are used to separate mother and child. Staplers close the incision.


According to the study "A Cost-effective Approach to Cesarean Sections," 80 instruments of the types previously mentioned are prepared for a cesarean section. However, only 55 are used. Thus, many of the extra instruments are unnecessary.