What Are the Alternatives to Electrocautery?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Shereen Skola
  • Last Modified Date: 20 February 2020
  • Copyright Protected:
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Available alternatives to electrocautery can depend on the procedure, but may include chemical cautery, cryotherapy, ultrasonic scalpels, and electrosurgery. These may be considered if a patient would benefit from their use, or if a surgeon prefers one method over another as a result of personal experience or other factors. Patients with questions about how a procedure will be performed can ask them to get information before it starts, providing an opportunity to make an informed choice. If a particular method is strongly recommended for a given procedure, a medical professional can explain why.

In procedures where electrocautery is used, a heated probe is applied to tissue. The probe can cut through the tissue while cauterizing it to stop bleeding, limiting blood loss and keeping the margins of the wound tidy. This procedure can be used for activities like removing warts or performing some surgeries. Medical training provides instruction in how to perform electrocautery and the types of equipment available.

For the treatment of surface issues like warts, chemical cautery and cyrotherapy can be useful alternatives to electrocautery. In procedures with chemicals, a solution is carefully applied to the skin to burn away the wart and seal the underlying tissue to prevent regrowth. Cryotherapy freezes the wart off and also closes blood vessels so they won’t bleed. The patient may notice some pain and soreness as the site heals. A small scab can form and will later drop off.


Internal procedures may require the use of electrosurgery. This involves a current passed through the tissue to heat it, cutting through and sealing blood vessels. Another option is the use of an ultrasonic scalpel, which vibrates through the material in question. Lasers and traditional scalpels can also be considered for some procedures. The significant disadvantage of a scalpel is that it doesn’t arrest bleeding, requiring the surgeon to tie off blood vessels during the procedure and monitor blood loss closely to protect the patient’s health.

If there are concerns about the use of electrocautery in a case, available alternatives can be discussed. Patients may want to know the pros and cons of different options, including which one would be recommended on the basis of experience with similar cases. This can help them make a decision with the best available information. The same information can be useful when talking with friends and family about the procedure, as they may have questions that the patient will want to be able to answer when talking about decision making.



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