What Is Electrocauterization?
Electrocauterization is a surgical procedure in which a surgeon or doctor uses electricity to heat tissue. The purpose is to:
- prevent or stop bleeding after an injury or during surgery
- remove abnormal tissue growth
- prevent the possibility of infection
What the Treatment Addresses
The treatment has a number of specific uses.
Use During Surgery
This technique may be used during surgery to cut through soft tissue so that the surgeon can gain access to the site and seal off blood vessels that are bleeding during surgery. Sealing off blood vessels helps prevent blood loss and keep the site clean.
This method is sometimes used to remove abnormal tissue growth such as tumors, particularly if they are located in sensitive or difficult-to-reach areas such as the brain.
If you often suffer from nosebleeds, a blood vessel in your nose that has become exposed most often causes it. Even if your nose is not bleeding at the time you seek medical advice, your doctor may recommend this type of treatment.
This technique is frequently used in the treatment of genital warts or warts on other areas of the body. In this case, you will usually only require one treatment.
Preparation for Treatment
There is no special preparation for his procedure. In the case of excessive bleeding (such as frequent nosebleeds), your doctor may take a blood sample to test for anemia or a clotting disorder.
A few days before your surgery, your doctor will tell you to stop taking any blood-thinning medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), and warfarin (Coumadin).
You should also try to avoid smoking in the days leading up to your surgery.
You will be asked not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the night before your procedure.
Where and How Electrocauterization Is Administered
Only a doctor who is fully qualified in this technique can perform this specialized form of treatment.
Before the surgery, he or she will place a grounding pad on your body (usually on your thigh). This will protect you from any harmful effects from the electric current. The skin at the site of the surgery will be cleaned and coated with a gel to prevent burns.
You will be given either a local or general anesthetic, depending on the type and extent of the surgery. Your doctor or surgeon will use a small probe with a mild electric current running through it to seal or destroy tissue. During surgery, the electric current does not enter the body. Only the heated tip of the probe comes into contact with tissue. The generated heat seals or removes the tissue it touches.
What Are the Risks of Electrocauterization?
The treatment itself has minimal risks, such as:
- minimal bleeding
- infection—antibiotics may be given along with the treatment to reduce this risk.
- pain and mild discomfort—pain medicine may be prescribed for several days after the procedure.
You should tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker in your heart before undergoing treatment.
Risks of Anesthetics
Though most healthy people do not have any problems with general anesthesia, there is a small risk of long-term complications and, though very rare, death is possible. These risks are largely dependent upon your general health and the type of procedure you are undergoing.
Some factors may increase your risk of complications, including:
- medical conditions involving your lungs, kidneys, or heart
- family history of adverse reactions to anesthesia
- sleep apnea
- allergies to food or medications
- alcohol use
If you have these factors or are older, you may be more at risk of the following complications (although they are rare):
- heart attack
- lung infection
- temporary mental confusion
According to the Mayo Clinic, approximately one or two in every 1,000 people wake briefly while under the effects of general anesthesia (Mayo, 2010). If this happens, usually you will be aware of your surroundings but will feel no pain. However, on rare occasions, people feel severe pain. This can lead to long-term psychological problems.
Factors that may increase the risk of this happening include:
- emergency surgery
- heart or lung problems
- long-term use of opiates, tranquilizers, or cocaine
- daily alcohol use
Electrocauterization should effectively stop bleeding if it is being used during surgery or after an injury.
If it was for removal of a tumor, wart, or otherwise, all abnormal tissue growth will have been removed in a successful procedure. The heat from the probe should sterilize the site, and there will often not be a need for stitches.
Your recovery time after treatment will depend on the size of the area treated and the amount of tissue removed. Healing usually takes place within two to four weeks, although it may take longer if a large area of tissue has been treated.
After surgery, you may notice swelling, redness, and mild pain. Depending on the exact surgery performed, you may develop scar tissue afterward.