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What are Debakey Forceps?

By Adrien-Luc Sanders
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Debakey forceps are a type of surgical forceps used to hold vascular vessels and tissue. They are specifically known for being atraumatic, or non-damaging. They are capable of holding soft tissues, blood vessels, and other delicate body parts without causing harm. By squeezing the blades, surgeons are able to capture tissues between the blunt tips and hold them in order to perform surgical operations or hold the tissues out of harm's way. A common nickname for Debakey forceps is magics or magic forceps.

Often resembling standard tweezers in design, Debakey forceps are one of the most widely used pieces of surgical equipment, especially in cardiovascular surgery. The blades consist of two flat pieces of metal connected at one end so that the blades point away slightly from each other in a narrow A-shape. Squeezing the blades together creates spring tension so that the tips can grip. Debakey forceps usually require a specific spring tension to allow for easy opening and closing without undue force that could damage sensitive tissues.

The blades will either taper gradually down to a thin, straight tip or truncate with the slender cylindrical tip attached. Most have ridged blades to provide traction for gripping. The tips have a very specific design — the interior surface of the slim, blunt-ended tips features microscopic teeth designed to fit together on closing. These teeth grip blood vessels or other tissues with enough friction to provide a firm hold without damaging them.

The forceps are generally crafted from stainless steel or other surgically-safe, easily-sanitized material. Straight forceps average 4.75 inches (12 cm) in length, but can be up to 9.5 inches (24 cm) long. Depending on the use, such as intestinal forceps, the design may vary to include different sizes or even curved blades. Many forceps also use hybrid designs pairing Debakey dips with other models, such as the Debakey-Satinsky forceps or the Allis-Debakey forceps. These can be paired with forceps clamps to grip delicate tissues during suturing and other procedures.

Debakey forceps are named after Michael E. Debakey, a pioneer in medical science and development. He made several groundbreaking discoveries in surgical medicine, including techniques in blood vessel grafting, replacement, and repair. He also invented devices such as the roller pump, the first successful external heart pump — and of course, the Debakey forceps, which were originally designed for vascular surgery. Debakey also introduced the practice of video-recording surgical procedures.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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