Electrocauterization is the process of destroying tissue using heat conduction from a metal probe heated by electric current. The procedure is used to stop bleeding from small vessels (larger vessels being ligated) or for cutting through soft tissue. High frequency alternating current is used in electrocautery in unipolar or bipolar fashion. It can be continuous waveform (cuts the tissue) or intermittent type (coagulates the tissue). In unipolar type, the tissue to be coagulated/cut is to be contacted with small electrode, while the exit point of the circuit, as at buttocks is large in surface area to prevent electrical burns. Heat generated depends on size of contact area, power setting or frequency of current, duration of application, waveform. Constant waveform generates more heat than intermittent one. Frequency used in cutting the tissue is set higher than in coagulation mode. Bipolar electrocautery establishes circuit between to tips of and is used like forceps. It has advantage of not disturbing other electrical rhythms of body (as in heart) and also acts to coagulate tissue by pressure. Lateral thermal injury is greater in unipolar devices than bipolar ones.
Electrocauterization is preferable to chemical cauterization because chemicals can leach into neighbouring tissue and cauterize outside of the intended boundaries. Concerns have also been raised regarding the toxicity of surgical smoke produced by electrocautery. This has been shown to contain chemicals which may cause harm by inhalation by the patients, surgeon or surgical staff.

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