Richardson retractors can be used to grasp the soft tissue of the body’s internal organs.
A Richardson retractor is a portable medical instrument used during thoracic or abdominal surgery. These retractors feature a handle and a long shaft with a wide hook, known as a blade, at the end. Surgeons use the blade to grasp soft tissue such as skin, muscles or internal organs. Once the soft tissue is secured, the surgeon pulls and holds the handle to keep it out of the way and away from the surgical area.
Retractors come in a variety of sizes, widths and blade styles.
Different surgeries and different patients require specially designed surgical tools. As such, retractors come in a variety of sizes, widths and blade styles. For surgery deep into a human torso, a Deaver retractor or Richardson retractor allows a surgeon to displace one side of an incision, including necessary muscles and organs, to access the surgical area. Hooks or blades for such surgeries generally need to be wider, with larger curves than retractors designed for shallower surgical areas, to better reach the abdominal cavity.
Oral surgeons use a version of the Richardson retractor in dental procedures.
The size and width of a Richardson retractor is directly related to the size of the patient and the surgery to be performed. For example, pediatric abdominal surgery requires much smaller instruments than adult abdominal surgery. Likewise, veterinary surgeries often require shorter handles and smaller blades to accommodate different configurations of internal organs. Dentists also use a variation of a Richardson retractor – albeit understandably on a smaller scale – for use in dental surgery.
Some versions of the Richardson retractor are specifically designed for use in oral surgery or other dental procedures.
Retractors such as the Richardson retractor should not be confused with thoracic retractors such as rib retractors. Rib separators act as distractors, forcing and forcing bone or tissue out of the way. By comparison, a Richardson retractor is a true retractor as its purpose is to gently lift and hold tissue in place, away from areas exposed for repair or surgical removal. In addition to retaining tissue, the use of different types of retractors is as much a matter of surgeon preference as it is a matter of the type of surgery and the size of the patient.
The original design of a Richardson retractor called for a single-blade end. A modified design, called the Richardson-Eastman retractor, features blades at each end, with a handle in the middle. In surgeries that require separating an incision with tissue moved to either side of the surgical area, a Richardson-Eastman retractor provides such abilities. Richardson-Eastman retractors, unlike the original, are typically sold in sets of two or more rather than one. The range of sizes available with Richardson-Eastman retractors also varies depending on the specific surgical region and patient size.