Retractors 06 How retractors work

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Retractors 06 How retractors work.

This subsection has text and images from an interactive multimedia training program on basic surgical skills called 
PrimeSkills in Surgery.
You can use this subsection on its own or follow the whole program (further details at the end of this subsection).


Retractors display the site where a surgeon wishes to operate.


The assistant uses the retractor with a mixture of pulling, static holding and angling.


There is a sideways pull and an upwards pull.


The sideways pull holds apart the walls of a surgical cavity.

01392030 retractor action.jpg


The upwards pull lifts and counteracts the compressing effect of gravity.

01392032 retractors elevate wound.gif


When two retractors are used on one side of a wound, they are usually pulled slightly apart to tension the


tissue in between.


01392194 double cat's paws on skin.jpg


Holding consists of keeping the retractor in the exact position chosen by the surgeon.


This will be in the best position for the surgeon's access and to avoid tissue damage.


Holding the retractor in this fixed position is what the assistant should aim for. It may require very


little pulling.


Once the retractor is being held in the correct position, the angle of the retractor has also to be correct.


The surgeon's view can be very easily blocked by a change of angulation of a degree or two. This is especially so with a retractor with a long blade such as a Kelly retractor.

01392074 Retracting with a Kelly retractor.gif


Next Section, click on Retractors 07 How to use a retractor
Last Section, click on  Retractors 05 Parts of retractors
Surgical Education and Training page, click on Surgical Education and Training
Whole program on WikiSurgery, click on PrimeSkills in Surgery
Whole program on CD-ROM, click on Michael Edwards