The Adson Forceps is a thumb forceps which is also called a surgical tweezer. The forceps are manufactured from stainless steel and used to grasp, hold, and move tissue. The design of the forceps allows the surgeon to have precision in tissue manipulation and avoid tissue damage. The forceps are supplied either toothed or smooth. The toothed version typically comes with two fine teeth on the inner portion of one tip and a single tooth on the other tip that interlocks with the two teeth to allow the forceps to tightly grip tissue. This version is also known as the rat-tooth tissue forceps. Non-toothed or smooth forceps have fine, serrated teeth on the inner portion of both tips that allow manipulation of tissue without trauma. The Adson forceps are a general surgery instrument. For ophthalmic surgery, more delicate thumb forceps such as the Iris and Bonn forceps are typically used.
The Adson Forceps is named after the American surgeon Alfred Washington Adson (1887 -1951). Born to Norwegian parents in Iowa he studied at the University of Nebraska and then undertook his MD at the University of Pennsylvania. In 1914 he entered the Mayo Clinic in general surgery and in 1917 he became a staff surgeon with his responsibility including neurosurgery. In 1921 he set up a dedicated neurosurgery unit at the Mayo Clinic and he ran the unit for a further 25 years. During his time at the Mayo Clinic, Adson developed improved surgical techniques in areas such as spinal tumours, introduced the Adson provocative test in the treatment of thoracic outlet syndrome and designed several instruments including the Adson forceps, the Adson-Graeff forceps and the Beckman-Adson retractor. Alfred married Lora Smith in 1911 and they had 3 children. He died of a heart attack in November 1951.
The Adson thumb forceps are widely used in surgery due to the precise control they give the surgeon.
Smooth Adson forceps are used for handling delicate tissue. They are regularly used in exploratory surgery for gently moving tissue or for holding it during the suturing process. You would expect to find the instrument in sets for procedures such as appendectomy and biopsy. Smooth forceps should not be used on skin or fascia as the excessive force required can damage the tissue.
Toothed Adson forceps are used on tissues that require a firm grip such as fascia, skin or the abdominal wall. They are widely used across a range of procedures including biopsy, dermatology, minor surgery, vasectomy, and carpal tunnel.
Article written by Jonathan Lintott, Managing Director.