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June 1990

Contamination Risks Associated With Electrosurgery

Author Affiliations

Department of Dermatology University of California at Davis 1020 29th St Sacramento, CA 95816

Arch Dermatol. 1990;126(6):805-808. doi:10.1001/archderm.1990.01670300105018

For more than 80years, high-frequency electrosurgery has provided dermatology and other areas of medicine with an efficient means of tissue destruction and hemostasis.1,2 When electrosurgery is used for simple office procedures, little attention is given to risks of contamination. Many physicians have believed that electrical current sterilizes the tissue, as well as the active electrosurgical electrode tip. With electrocautery, the glowing red electrode is hot and sterile because of its high temperature. However, the most common electrosurgical modality used today, high-frequency electrosurgery, delivers electromagnetic energy in the form of high-frequency radio-frequency waves.3 The tip of the high-frequency electrode passes electromagnetic energy into tissue, and heat is generated from either sparking or tissue resistance. Little or no heating occurs within the electrode at the point of tissue contact.4,5

Although a high-frequency electrode tip generates no inherent heat, many practitioners have believed that the effects of the flow of

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