Electrocautery/Electrosurgery Units – Terrain Biomedical – Medical Equipment – 773-697-8400
We stock a wide range of electrosurgery equipment that is manufactured to coagulate, resect, cut and retrieve. Electrosurgery devices typically include snares, electrodes, knives, hot biopsy forceps and other electrocautery accessories.
Electrocautery is a type of directed transference of heat to the patient’s tissue. As opposed to passing electric current straight through tissue, lower-voltage, high-amp, alternating or direct current is utilized to heat up a handheld device that is then applied onto the tissue. The effect depends upon the tissue. Direct application onto a tumor results in destruction of the tumor cells, while application to blood vessels causes hemostasis. Electrocautery is most often used in the event higher-frequency electrosurgery becomes contraindicated.
On occasion the terms electrocautery and electrosurgery may be confused with one another even among those who work in fields related to healthcare. Although each of these effective procedures are frequently applied in many areas of healthcare specialties, they are rather different with respect to the tools involved and in application.
Differences Between Electrocautery and Electrosurgery
Here we present a brief look at each of these procedures to further show the key differences between them terms of application and the equipment used:
An electrocautery unit utilizes electric current to heat up a wire which is then directly applied to the targeted tissue area in order to coagulate (or burn) it. Note that it isn’t used in order to pass the electric current through the tissue, but instead is applied onto the area being treated. With this technique, heat passes through the resistant metal wire that serves as an electrode. This heated electrode is then positioned onto the targeted treatment area to destroy that particular tissue. This usage of electricity is generally applied in superficial medical situations often treated by urologists, dermatologists, cosmetic surgeons, ophthalmologists and related medical specialties.
Electrosurgery, on the other hand passes electric current through the patient’s tissues to obtain a desired outcome. The electric current typically used is a type of alternating current comparable to that which generates radio waveforms. Generally, the frequency is fairly high, with the standard level at approximately 500,000 cycles each second. This assures that the electric current passes through the tissue instead of causing a shock effect. The heat is generated by the resistance factor of the tissue to the electric current. The devices used for applying the current are electrodes and usually includes loop, blades, needle and ball configurations. The selection of electrode generally depends on the desired outcome. Electrosurgical instruments can coagulate, fuse or cut tissue.
Safe Use of Electrocautery Units
Electrocautery Units produce high electrical currents that can cause injury to both operator and patients if not correctly used and well-maintained. Potential risks include burns at return electrode sites and even surgical fires. Fortunately, these safety risks can be prevented by following basic precautions such as:
-The manual piece should be placed securely in the unit’s nonconductive holster when it is not being used.
-Be sure to select the lowest generator settings that will attain the intended surgical effects. In the event that higher than needed voltages are applied, the risk of arcing is increased. If the physician continually requests a higher voltage setting, it may indicate that the integrity of the dispersive pad interface has been compromised.
-Clean off the electrode tip often. As dead tissue as a result of cautery starts to collect on the electrode tip, electrical impedance rises and this can lead to sparking, ignition or arcing of the tissue. While cleaning off the electrode, the tissue should be cleaned away with a sponge instead of a regular scratch pad. This is because pads can cause scratch marks on the electrode tip and increase tissue build-up.
-Electrocautery Units shouldn’t be utilized near flammable agents or in oxygen-enriched settings.
-Do not use any form of flammable substance that could be an ignited by a spark such as skin degreasers or alcohol. If use of an alcohol-based product is necessary, do not permit it to collect close to the dispersive pad. Confirm that preparation solutions are dry and that any fumes have dispersed prior to activating the Electrocautery Unit.
-Rubberized catheters and other types of materials should not be utilized as a sheath over electrode tips when they are activated.
-The unit’s cables must not be coiled around metallic instruments because the electrical current that runs through them could pass directly into the instrument and cause burns.
-Do not utilize towel clips or other metal instruments for attaching cables on to drapes. Sharp clips can result in damage to electrical cables and create an extra – and unnecessary – point of contact for the patient’s skin. When electrical wire overlaps around a metallic clip it forms an electrical current transformer that may cause a safety hazard.
-Do not operate Electrocautery Units with damp hands or gloves. If sterilized gloves have holes it could permit electric current to pass through, so confirm that all staff members use gloves in good condition.
-Do not operate Electrocautery Units if standing on a wet or even slightly damp surface. Also, be sure that the foot pedal remains dry. As a precaution, protect the pedal from liquid spills with a waterproof cover.
-Prior to conducting monopolar electrosurgical procedures, determine if the patient has any form of metal implants such as a cardiac pacemaker. There is risk of injury to the patient if a return electrode tip is positioned upon the skin over or close to a metal implant. As a safety precaution, ask the patient to remove any jewelry to prevent complications from potential electrical current leaks.
-Insulate the patient so they are not in contact with any type of grounded metal object.
-Select a spot for the return electrode that is dry, clean and near to the operation site. Avoid scar tissue, skin tissue over metal implants prostheses and pressure points. If needed, shave hairy areas at the dispersive pad location. Confirm that the conductive gel is sufficiently moist and evenly spread over the contact location and the dispersive pad makes even contact with the skin.
Position the electrodes away from the surgery site and the electrical current path through the patient’s body.
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At Terrain Biomedical, we are staffed with engineers who have many years of experience in a variety of healthcare environments. We can put together a customized plan for you based on the specifics of your facility, your budget and applications.
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