• Electrodesiccation and electrocoagulation are commonly used to control bleeding and destroy tissue. In certain outpatient settings, the clinician routinely uses one of these electrosurgical modalities on successive patients without sterilization or antisepsis of the treatment electrode tip. In controlled laboratory experiments using electrodesiccation and electrocoagulation, we investigated bacterial transference of Staphylococcus aureus from inoculated tissue to sterile electrode tips and from inoculated electrode tips to sterile tissue. With use on inoculated tissue, sterile electrode tips remained sterile after electrocoagulation but not after electrodesiccation. Bacterial transference from inoculated electrode tips to sterile tissue occurred with electrodesiccation but not with electrocoagulation. These results are consistent with bacterial destruction by electric current and suggest that bacterial transference via the treatment electrosurgery electrode from one patient to another is possible but much more probable during electrodesiccation than during electrocoagulation.
(Arch Dermatol. 1990;126:751-755)