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Just as a current of electricity heats an electric light filament, the high frequency current heats tissues through which it passes. The heating of the tissues by heat generated in them gives the name diathermy or endothermy to the application.
For many medical purposes, such as the treatment of arthritis, neuritis, sinusitis and pneumonia, large electrodes making contact with many square inches of the skin distribute the heat generated through such an amount of tissue as to raise the temperature only the few degrees required to produce a curative, not a destructive, effect.
The use of a very small electrode like the point of a needle concentrates the current and raises the temperature of the tissues at that point to the destructive degree. This takes place whether the needle is in direct contact with the tissues or whether it has to leap across a short air space. The current
TOUSEY S. A METHOD OF SURGICAL DIATHERMY OR ENDOTHERMY: RENDERING IT PAINLESS WITHOUT AN ANESTHETIC. JAMA. 1926;86(8):527–529. doi:10.1001/jama.1926.02670340005002
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