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Last updated May 22, 2018

Approved by: Maulik P. Purohit MD, MPH

Electrocauterization is a procedure that uses an electric current to remove damaged or infected tissue, or manage bleeding in tiny blood vessels.

Background Information:

What are the other Names for the Procedure?

  • Cauterization
  • Fulguration
  • Galvanic Cautery

What is Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

Electrocauterization is a procedure that uses an electric current to remove damaged or infected tissue, or manage bleeding in tiny blood vessels.

What part of the Body does the Procedure involve?

Electrocauterization involves the skin and blood vessels.

Why is the Electrocauterization surgical procedure Performed?

Electrocauterization is performed for the following reasons:

  • Destruction of lesions on the skin (like warts, skin tags, etc.)
  • Manage excessive bleeding during surgeries, to control blood loss
  • Eliminate excessive bleeding from lesions within the linings of the stomach, small intestine, or colon, when an endoscopy is performed
  • Destruction of lesions within the bladder

What are some Alternative Choices for the Procedure?

Some alternative choices or other modes of cauterization include:

  • Chemical cautery: Where certain chemicals, such as silver nitrate, tri-chloro acetic acid, cantharidin, etc. are used as cauterizing agents
  • Cryosurgery
  • Diathermy: In this technique, high-frequency electromagnetic currents are used. Diathermy may be achieved using ultrasound, short waves, or microwaves

What are the Recent Advances in the Procedure?

Use of various energy devices have been some of the recent advances.

What is the Cost of performing the Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

The cost of Electrocauterization procedure depends on a variety of factors, such as the type of your health insurance, annual deductibles, co-pay requirements, out-of-network and in-network of your healthcare providers and healthcare facilities.

In many cases, an estimate may be provided before the procedure. The final amount depends upon the findings during the surgery/procedure and post-operative care that is necessary.

When do you need a Second Opinion, prior to the Procedure?

  • It is normal for a patient to feel uncomfortable and confused by the information regarding Electrocauterization and on what needs to be done.
  • If the patient needs further reassurance or a second opinion, a physician will almost always assist and also recommend another physician, if required
  • They can also choose to approach another physician independently. Besides, if the procedure has many alternatives, the patient may take a second opinion to understand and choose the best one

What are some Helpful Resources?

Complete Guide to Symptoms, Illness & Surgery; Written by H Winter Griffith, M.D.; Revised and updated by Stephen Moore, M.D. and Kenneth Yoder, M.D.; The Berkley Publishing Group, 5th Edition, New York, 2006



Prior to Electrocauterization surgical procedure:

How is the Electrocauterization surgical procedure Performed?

  • Heat is applied with the help of an instrument that works on the principle of flow of current through an electrode (termed as Monopolar or Unipolar Electrocautery) or between two electrodes (Bipolar Electrocautery)
  • In Monopolar Electrocautery, current is applied through a handheld active electrode and travels back to the generator through an inactive electrode attached to the patient (the grounding pad), so that the patient forms a part of the electrical circuit
  • In Bipolar Electrocautery, both active and return electrodes are incorporated into a single handheld instrument (with 2 tips), so that current passes between the tips of the two electrodes. Due to this, only a small amount of tissue that the tips grasp, is affected

Where is the Procedure Performed?

  • This depends on the type of procedure where Electrocautery is used
  • It can be used in many procedures ranging from physician office procedures to those performed under general anesthesia in the operating room

Who Performs the Procedure?

The procedure is performed by any of these medical personnel, with or without assistance from an anesthesiologist:

  • A family physician
  • Urologist
  • Dermatologist
  • Plastic surgeon
  • Gastroenterologist
  • General surgeon
  • Obstetrician or gynecologist
  • Orthopedic surgeon
  • Vascular surgeon
  • Cardiothoracic surgeon

How long will the Procedure take?

This depends on the type of procedure performed.

What do you need to tell your Physician before the Procedure?

It is very important to provide the following information to your healthcare provider. This enables your healthcare provider in assessing the risks for the surgical procedure and helps avoid unnecessary complications.

  • Provide a complete list of medications you are currently, taking to your physician. This information is useful for a variety of reasons. For example, it can help your healthcare provider prevent complications due to a drug interaction
  • If you are allergic to any specific medication or food items
  • If you are taking blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin, herbal supplements, or any other such medications
  • If you or your family members, have a history of bleeding disorders, or if there is a tendency to bleed more than normal
  • If you have diabetes, high blood pressure, chest pains, or have previously suffered from a heart attack
  • If you have ever been diagnosed with blood clots in your leg (deep vein thrombosis) or lung (embolism of lung)
  • If you have a history of frequent bone fractures (this may affect bone-healing, if bones are involved as part of your procedure)
  • A list of all previous surgical procedures you have undergone, like for example: Removal of appendix, gallbladder, or any other part, of your body; surgical repair of any body part, such as hernia repair, perforation of bowel wall, etc.

What Preparations are needed, prior to the Procedure?

  • The physician may evaluate the individual’s medical history to gain a comprehensive knowledge of the overall health status of the patient including information related to the medications that are being currently taken
  • Some medications increase a person’s chances of bleeding and it may be recommended to discontinue them for a period of time, before the procedure is performed
  • Blood tests may be performed to determine if there is a bleeding tendency or any other medical conditions that prevents the person from undergoing the procedure
  • Inform the physician if you are allergic to any local anesthetics, lidocaine, etc.
  • Avoid application of any cosmetics, deodorant, or topical medicines on the area, prior to the procedure
  • It is advisable to quit smoking and the use of any nicotine based products, for a while, before the surgery
  • Consumption of alcoholic drinks must also be avoided for a period of time, as instructed
  • The patient must avoid eating or drinking at least 8 hours prior to the surgical procedure, depending on when the procedure is arranged
  • For persons suffering from diabetes, it is important that the blood sugar stays within the normal range; if not their diabetologist may have to control blood sugar by recommending insulin and/or a combination of oral medicines
  • A physician will request your consent for Electrocauterization procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

What is the Consent Process before the Procedure?

A physician will request your consent for the Electrocauterization procedure using an Informed Consent Form.

Consent for the Procedure: A “consent” is your approval to undergo a procedure. A consent form is signed after the risks and benefits of the procedure, and alternative treatment options, are discussed. This process is called informed consent.

You must sign the forms only after you are totally satisfied by the answers to your questions. In case of minors and individuals unable to personally give their consent, the individual’s legal guardian or next of kin, shall give their consent for the procedure.

What Tests are needed, before the Electrocauterizationsurgical procedure?

The tests that are required are based on the type of procedure, which is to be performed. 

What are some Questions for your Physician?

Some of the basic questions that you might ask your physician are as follows:

  • What is an Electrocauterization procedure?
  • Why is this procedure necessary? How will it help?
  • How soon should I get it done? Is it an emergency?
  • What are the alternatives to the procedure?
  • Who are the medical personnel involved in this procedure?
  • Where is the procedure performed? 
  • What are the risks while performing the procedure?
  • What are the complications that might take place, during recovery?
  • How long will it take to recover? When can I resume normal work?
  • How many such procedures have you (the physician) performed?
  • Are there any follow-up tests, periodic visits to the healthcare facility required, after the procedure?
  • What are the costs involved?

During the Electrocauterization surgical procedure:

What kind of Anesthesia is given, during the Procedure?

The anesthesia administered varies with the procedure.

How much Blood will you lose, during the Procedure?

The amount of blood loss varies with the procedure.

What are the possible Risks and Complications during the Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

The general factors that increase the risk of getting complications during the procedure, which include:

  • Obesity: Generally greater the degree of obesity, greater is the surgical risk
  • Smoking: Longer the smoking history (in pack years smoked), greater the surgical risk
  • Advancing age
  • Poorly controlled diabetes, as evidenced by a high hemoglobin A1c and a high fasting glucose
  • Poorly functioning kidney, as evidenced by increased BUN (blood urea nitrogen) and blood creatinine
  • Poorly functioning liver, as evidenced by increased blood liver function tests
  • Hypertension (increased blood pressure), especially if it is poorly controlled
  • Poor nutritional status (malnutrition with mineral and vitamin deficiencies)
  • Poor lung function, as evidenced by abnormal lung function tests
  • History of bleeding disorders
  • Longstanding illness, such as autoimmune disorders, chronic infections
  • Poor immune system due to a variety of causes
  • Taking some prescription or non-prescription medication: It is very important to inform your healthcare provider the complete list of all such medications. This will help assess the surgical risk for complications

What Post-Operative Care is needed at the Healthcare Facility after the Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

This varies with the procedure performed.

After the Electrocauterization surgical procedure:

What are the possible Risks and Complications after the Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

Post Electrocauterization, the following complications may arise:

  • Infection in the surgical wound
  • Sometimes, using the procedure, it is not possible to completely remove all abnormal tissue
  • Injury or damage to the underlying structures 
  • Continuous pain

What is the Prognosis after the Surgery?

The prognosis depends on the reason for performing the procedure.

When do you need to call your Physician?

Do contact your physician if you notice any of the following symptoms:

  • Worsening pain and swelling around the surgical wound
  • Bleeding or fluid drainage
  • Signs of an infection
  • Fever
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Feeling sick
  • Complications associated with prescription medications used for the treatment

What Post-Operative Care is needed at Home after the Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

This varies with the procedure performed.

How long does it normally take to fully recover, from the Procedure?

The recovery period depends on the type of the procedure performed.

Additional Information:

What happens to tissue (if any), taken out during the Procedure?

The tissue (if any removed) is taken for further examination is later disposed, as per the standard medical procedure.

When should you expect results from the pathologist regarding tissue taken out, during the Procedure?

  • The tissue removed is processed in the laboratory under a pathologist's supervision
  • Slide(s) are prepared once the tissue is processed and is examined by a pathologist and a pathology report issued
  • Depending on the complexity of the case, issue of the report may take anywhere between 72 hours to a week's time

Who will you receive a Bill from, after the Electrocauterization surgical procedure?

It is important to note that the number of bills that the patient may receive depends on the arrangement the healthcare facility has with the physician and other healthcare providers.

Sometimes, the patient may get a single bill that includes the healthcare facility and the consultant physician charges. Sometimes, the patient might get multiple bills depending on the healthcare provider involved. For instance, the patient may get a bill from:

  • The outpatient facility, physician’s office or hospital
  • An anesthesiologist (if anesthesia was administered)
  • A pathologist (if the tissue was sent for analysis)
  • An obstetrician, gynecologist, family physician, general surgeon, urologist, dermatologist, plastic surgeon, or a gastroenterologist

The patient is advised to inquire and confirm the type of billing, before an Electrocauterization procedure is performed.

Thanks and Gratitude:

We sincerely acknowledge and thank Dr. Douglas J. Jones for reviewing the article. His valuable input and feedback has helped enrich the contents of this article.

Douglas J. Jones, MD FACS
Board Certified General Surgeon and Faculty Member
University of Illinois, College of Medicine at Urbana-Champaign
506 S. Mathews Ave., Urbana, IL 61801, USA

Reviewed and Approved by a member of the DoveMed Editorial Board
First uploaded: July 4, 2013
Last updated: May 22, 2018