Suture retriever, commonly referred to as a suture passer, is a mildly misleading name. People often assume it is used as a tool for removing sutures post-surgery. Instead, think of a suture retriever the surgical equivalent to a needle threader. It consists of a handle, a shaft and a loop, all of which vary between the different manufacturers and among their product lines. For example, the Beatty Hoffee Suture Retriever has a knurled aluminum handle whereas other brands have retractable triggers, finger loops, and/or plastic handles. The metal shafts are often straight but can come with varying degrees of bends and curves. The wire loop will either be suture or wire. The type surgery and the surgeon’s preference will determine which suture retriever is best suited for the procedure.
When orthopedic surgeons need to secure a tendon to a bone, they are faced with the problem of passing the suture thread through a tendon and thick bone. This is where needle threader function of the suture retriever comes into play. During surgery, the suture retriever is inserted into a hole that has been drilled into the tendon or bone. After the instrument carefully passes through the tendon or bone, the suture thread is inserted into the loop of the suture retriever and then passed back through the bone and secured. This is most commonly performed in hip, shoulder and knee surgeries.
Due to the popularity of suture retrievers, hospitals and surgical centers can purchase them from a wide variety of vendors. Arguably, the most popular single-use version is the Smith & Nephew Hewson Suture Retriever. Conmed and Smith & Nephew both carry popular reusable handles and a variety of single-use suture retrievers. More recently Arthrex and Beatty Marketing & Sales have produced less well known but also less expensive alternatives.