Date Made/Found: 1980-1990
Material and Medium: Stainless steel
Dimensions: Overall: 70 x 50 x 225mm (2 3/4 x 1 15/16 x 8 7/8in.)
Department: Decorative Art
Accession Number: X1983.252
This is a surgical instrument called a retractor. It is made of stainless steel and was manufactured in the 1980s.
A retractor is a simple hand-held tool used by a surgeon to separate the edges of a surgical incision or wound. It can also be used to hold back organs and tissues, so that body parts under the incision may be accessed. Retractors are manufactured in many shapes, sizes, and styles. Some modern retractors are fixed onto the end of a robotic arm.
Stainless steel is ideal for medical purposes because as it doesn’t rust so can easily be kept sterile. There are many different types of stainless steel, and depending on the type of use the alloy (mix) recipe is varied. Most surgical equipment is made out of martensitic steel, which is harder than other alloys and easier to keep sharp. Three metallic chemical elements give it special qualities. Chromium gives the steel scratch resistance and corrosion resistance. Nickel gives a smooth and polished finish. Molybdenum gives greater hardness and helps maintain a cutting edge.