Hand Signals in Operating Room

A couple of months ago, I had my first exposure in the operating room. I was mostly concerned about the hand signals in the operating room. My friends told me that these hand signals in the operating room are often confusing and it might result to the doctor or clinical instructor scolding you.

When I searched for 'hand signals in the operating room' in Google, I found no illustrations of these hand signals. I also didn't have any books.

And so today I have decided to make a post about the common hand signals in the operating room. Please take note that these pictures were taken by me. So please confirm with your friends if these are correct.


Curved scissors or Metzenbaun

Straight scissors
*hand sign is done with snipping action (?)

Curved forceps

Straight forceps

Needle holder (with needle) and suture
*hand sign is done in sawing manner

Army Navy retractor
*hand sign is done in a retracting manner

Tissue or Thumb forceps
*hand sign done with thumb and fore finger touching each other repeatedly

*hand sign done with the thumb moving up and down

This is only as far as I can remember. Again, please confirm with your classmates or clinical instructors if these hands signals are correct.

The other instruments do not have hand signals anymore. Usually the doctor in the operating room would just say the name of the instruments (for example bobcock and allis).

The hand signals in the operating room is not being used at all times. Sometimes, the surgeon would just tell you the name of the instrument in the entire operation. Some would use the hand signal only for some instruments.

The hand signals in the operating room are easy to memorize. The hand signals usually mimic they way the instruments are being used so you'll always have a clue as to what the surgeon is asking for in the operating room.

Good luck and always remember to pray before entering the operating room.

The photos of hand signals in the operating room are property of Jerome C. Herrera.