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What Is Electrocauterization?

Electrocauterization is a routine surgical procedure. A surgeon or doctor uses electricity to heat tissue in order to:

  • prevent or stop bleeding after an injury or during surgery
  • remove abnormal tissue growth
  • prevent infection

What the Treatment Addresses

The treatment has a number of uses.


A surgeon may use this technique to cut through soft tissue during surgery so they can gain access to a site on the body they need to get to. Electrocauterization allows the surgeon to seal off blood vessels that are bleeding during surgery. Sealing off blood vessels helps prevent blood loss and keeps the site clean.

Tumor Removal

This method is sometimes used to remove abnormal tissue growth such as tumors. This approach is common for growths located in sensitive or areas that are difficult to reach, such as the brain.

Nasal Treatment

If you get frequent nosebleeds, it’s likely an exposed blood vessel in your nose is causing them. Your doctor may recommend this type of treatment even if your nose is not bleeding at the time you seek medical advice.

Wart Removal

This technique is frequently used to treat genital warts or warts on other areas of the body. Wart removal usually only requires one treatment.

Preparation for Treatment

No special preparation is needed for this 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.

Several days before your surgery, your doctor will likely tell you to stop taking blood-thinning medications such as:

Your doctor will tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight the night before your procedure. You should also try to avoid smoking on the days leading up to your surgery.

Where and How Electrocauterization Is Administered

Although electrocauterization is often used during minor surgeries, it’s a specialized form of treatment.

Before the surgery, your doctor will place a grounding pad on your body (usually on your thigh). This will protect you from harmful effects of the electric current. They’ll clean the skin at the site of the surgery and coat it with gel to prevent burns.

You’ll be given a local or general anesthetic, depending on the type and extent of the surgery. Your 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 heat seals or removes the tissue it touches.

What Are the Risks of Electrocauterization?

Electrocauterization Risks

The treatment has minimal risks, including:

  • slight bleeding
  • infection: Your doctor may give you antibiotics to reduce this risk.
  • pain or mild discomfort: Your doctor may prescribe you pain medicine for after the procedure.

Tell your doctor if you have a pacemaker or prosthetic joint before undergoing this treatment.

Risks of Anesthetics

Most healthy people don’t have any problems with general anesthesia. However, there’s a small risk of long-term complications. These risks largely depend on your general health and the type of procedure you’re undergoing. Although very rare, death is possible. 

Some factors that may increase your risk of complications include:

  • medical conditions involving your lungs, kidneys, or heart
  • family history of adverse reactions to anesthesia
  • sleep apnea
  • obesity
  • allergies to food or medications
  • alcohol use
  • smoking

If you have these factors or are older, you may be more at risk for the following complications (however, they’re rare):

  • heart attack
  • lung infection
  • stroke
  • temporary mental confusion
  • death 

Approximately 1­-2 in every 10,000 people wake briefly while under the effects of general anesthesia. If this happens, you may be aware of your surroundings, but you typically won’t feel any pain. It’s rare to feel severe pain. However, this can lead to long-term psychological problems.

Factors that may increase the risk of this happening can include:

  • heart or lung problems
  • long-term use of opiates, tranquilizers, or cocaine
  • daily alcohol use
  • emergency surgery

Long-Term Outlook

Electrocauterization should effectively stop bleeding if it’s used during surgery or after an injury. After surgery, you may notice swelling, redness, and mild pain. Depending on the surgery performed, you may develop scar tissue afterward.

In treatment of a tumor or wart, all abnormal tissue growth will be removed. The heat from the probe should sterilize the site. Typically, there’s no 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. It may take longer if a large area of tissue has been treated.

Content licensed from:

Written by: Corinna Underwood
Medically reviewed on: Dec 22, 2015: Steven Kim, MD

This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your health care provider. Please consult a health care professional with any health concerns you may have.
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