Surgical Retractors: Types and usage

Surgical Retractors are medical instruments used in the operating room to expand the incisions made on patients that are undergoing a surgical procedure.

Surgical Retractors are medical instruments used in the operating room to expand the incisions made on patients that are undergoing a surgical procedure. Surgical retractors are also used to help provide the surgeon with a wider view of the surgical field by pulling back the tissues and organs that interfere with the visibility of the surgeon and enabling him/her to carry out the surgical procedure without damaging the organs and tissues located at the surgical site.

Surgical retractors have in recent times become a must-have instrument in every operating room as it allows the surgeon to work more effectively and reduce the possibility of errors that can be made on the patient. Surgical retractors are used in major surgeries on various sites and regions of the body. They are of different types and various specifications.

The required component used in producing surgical retractors is stainless steel. Surgical retractors are created with stainless steel materials because of their high tensile strength, and their ability to be easily sterilized and disinfected for reuse when needed.

Parts of Surgical Retractors


Surgical retractors have handles that are of three forms; Hooked handle, ring handle, and notch handle. These handles enable the surgeon or surgical personnel to hold the retractor in place while the surgical procedure is ongoing.


These are the sharp edges of the surgical retractors. They are both smooth and jagged. They aid the surgical retractor by maintaining its position in the patient.

The shaft

Surgical retractors vary in length, and as such, the type of retractors used in surgical procedures differs from one another.

Types of Surgical Retractors

There are two types of surgical retractors used by surgeons during surgical procedures. These retractors are created with their various uniqueness and as such will have different processes by which they can be used. The surgical retractors include;

Self Retaining Retractors

Just as the name implies, these are retractors that do not need or require an additional effort by the surgeon or other surgical personnel to keep them in place. They are capable of remaining in place throughout the surgical procedure.

Classification of self-retaining retractors include;

Finochietto Rib Retractor

It is also known as rib spreader. It is specifically designed for use during surgeries in the thoracic region, as it is used to spread the ribs.

Weitlaner Retractor

It is used peculiarly for cosmetic or plastic surgery, and also for surgeries concerned with huge bones and joints.

Hip Retractor system

It is employed during hip surgery

Balfour Abdominal Retractor

It is used during surgeries in the abdominal cavity.

Gelpi Retractor

It is used in performing spinal surgeries.

Hand-held Retractors

Hand-held retractors are retractors that can not function without them being held in place by the surgeon or other surgical personnel during the surgical procedure. It is heavily dependent on being hand-held before it can be optimized in full.

It is classified into various types, which include;

Hohmann Retractor

It is used during orthopedic surgery to ensure the bone comes into focus and allows the surgeon to operate on it.

Army Retractors

It is used to pull back surface wounds.

Farabeuf Retractor

It is used for many surgical procedures because of its high level of efficiency. It can be used by both specialists and basic medical practitioners.

Meyerding Finger Retractor

It is used during intricate procedures that involve both brain and spinal surgeries. It enables the retraction of tissues along with muscles of the central nervous system.

Weaver Retractor

This is a type of retractor employed when carrying out a procedure like a cholecystectomy (removing the gallbladder) to expand the abdomen along with chest openings.

Richardson Retractor

It is amongst the most generally used retractors. Its uses involve the retraction of several layers of rooted tissue located within both abdominal and chest cavities.

Ribbon Retractor

These types of retractors can accommodate various levels of bending into different figures during the duration of the surgery. It is concerned with retracting the in-depth break of continuity in the skin.

Amputation Retractor

They are applicable in aiding the surgeon to properly identify regions in the body of the patient that require amputation and then isolate them in preparation for the procedure.

Uses of Surgical Retractors

All surgical retractors have a specific reason for their creation. The usefulness of any type of surgical retractor is dependent on the surgical area where the surgical procedure is to be carried out.

Disadvantages of Surgical Retractors

Surgical retractors have proven to be more helpful than harmful. However, the harm it causes is still valid. Some of the demerits of surgical retractors include;

• It causes unintended injuries.

• It can also lead to infection due to improper sterilization.

• It exposes the patient to a longer recovery time as too much stress has been placed on the tissues.

In conclusion, when a surgeon is about to engage in any form of surgery, he/she is required to ensure that all the appropriate instruments needed for the surgical procedure are in the operating room. The surgical retractors have proven to be a vital component required for surgical procedures, and as such must be handy for usage in the operating room.


Jensen Instrument Technologies is a long-established company distributing precision surgical instrumentation across Australia and New Zealand. Our company specialises in the supply of maintenance of precision mechanical, optical and power surgical instruments for surgical theatres. Learn more about us here.