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The Weitlaner (also known as West Retractor) is a self-retaining, finger ring retractor with a cam ratchet lock and 3×4 sharp or blunt interlocking teeth. The instrument is widely used in orthopaedic but also with small, deep incisions and soft tissue dissection at a superficial level. The retractor is set against the edges of the wound or the tissue that needs to be held apart. The ratcheted handles are then locked leaving the blades holding the edges of the open wound with no assistance. While the original Weitlaner Retractor has straight prongs, the West version has curved prongs to allow the retractor to be better placed on the patient without distorting the surgical site.
The Weitlaner Retractor is named after the Austrian surgeon Franz Weitlaner (1872-1944). He was born in the Tyrol region of northern Italy. After completing his studies in Graz and Innsbruck in Austria, he became a doctor in 1998 at the age of 26. Following a period as a ship surgeon, Franz was appointed community doctor in Ottenthal in North East Austria. As a community doctor, Franz was often required to perform surgery with limited assistance. To keep wounds open he used a Broz Wound Dilator which operated using a screw mechanism. The Broz Wound Dilator was hard to adjust during surgery, often slipped out and was difficult to clean adequately. In 1905 Weitlaner published the first description of his new device in the Vienna Clinical Review and commissioned Windler Instrument Makers in Berlin to make the first retractor for him to his design. In 1912 Windler added the instrument to its catalogue and the device soon became highly popular. Franz Weitlaner never patented his device or took any financial gain from its introduction. He remained a community doctor in Austria, wrote scholarly articles on medicine and pursued his love of nature until his death at 72 of a heart attack.
Surgical Procedures: It is widely used to hold the incision made in the groin for the sake of herniotomy (otomy = to cut), femoropopliteal bypass (a graft implanted between femoral and popliteal artery) or saphenous vein graft. It is used to hold the incisions in the case of orthopaedic surgeries as most of the incisions are shallow. Moreover, it is used in neurosurgical procedures to hold the skin of the scalp in procedures like craniotomy. It is even used in some cardiac surgeries like the implantation of a pericardial pacemaker. In facial surgeries, it may be helpful. In children, this retractor is used to hold the incision in the midline on the back while repairing tethered cord syndrome (fixation of the spinal cord due to the scarring following the repair of myelomeningocele which is a birth defect where bones and the spinal canal has not been completely formed). Apart from these, the retractor is useful in many other surgeries where a shallow incision is involved.
Andersen Caledonia is one of the leading, British manufactured, suppliers of surgical instruments in the UK including single-use surgical packs and instruments. We stock a wide range of surgical supplies which can be found at our online shop. For 3-4 Teeth Weitlaner Retractor, click here. For 2-3 Teeth Weitlaner Retractor, click here.
Article written by Jonathan Lintott, Managing Director.