What is Electrosurgery?

Electrosurgery is a surgical method that uses electrical currents to make incisions and to cut through tissue. Due to the high heat used when making these cuts, blood vessels are cauterized during the process, which limits the amount of blood lost in the procedure. This makes it the ideal method for conducting operations with a high risk of hemorrhage. Electrosurgery can also be used to destroy tumors or to collect biopsies for further testing. 

To perform electrosurgery, special equipment is used and training is required to properly use the tools. Both veterinary surgeons and vet technicians can conduct electrosurgery for various procedures. The amount of electricity that the device uses can be controlled either by hand or with a foot pedal. Electrosurgery is a regular component of emergency surgeries, procedures of the face and mouth, and in the treatment of severe skin lesions.

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Electrosurgery Procedure in Dogs

Before electrosurgery is chosen for treatment,  various diagnostic tests will need to be run on the dog. Once the condition has been determined, appropriate action can be taken. Full blood work is needed before any use of general anaesthesia to help assess the dog’s overall health condition. At this point, the surgery can be planned and electrosurgery can be selected for use if deemed the best course of action. The dog will likely be required to fast for several hours before the operation commences. 

There are two main types of electrosurgery. Monopolar electrosurgery is used to cut through tissue and to cauterize blood vessels. It has four different requirements for proper function. Electricity comes from the electro-surgical generator (ESG). An active electrode is then put through the patient's body (which itself is a component). A large sheet of metal is placed under the dog as a grounding plate to collect and return the energy to the ESG. Bipolar electrosurgery is basically the same, except instead of a grounding plate, one end of a tool such as scissors or forceps is the return electrode. 

Efficacy of Electrosurgery in Dogs

The method of electrosurgery has been found to be useful in procedures where speed is needed and blood loss is a concern. The surgical area will also be less red or swollen during the healing process. After the fourth day of healing, dogs who have received electrosurgery may experience longer healing times than those who underwent traditional surgery. The wattage used affects how quickly the dog will be able to heal. Other options for surgery include the use of scalpels, lasers or cryosurgery.

Electrosurgery Recovery in Dogs

Regular protocol should be adhered to as the dog wakes from general anesthesia. The surgical site often benefits from topical antibiotic ointment after the procedure has been done. Depending on the size of wound and how deep it is, dressings may or may not be placed over the incision. Some wounds will also require sutures to hold the tissue together through the healing process. It can take up to six weeks for a surgical site cut by electrosurgery to heal, mainly due to the lack of blood flow to the area from cauterization.

Cost of Electrosurgery in Dogs

The price of electrosurgery can vary greatly depending on the exact procedure being used and the ailment being treated. The equipment itself can cost several thousand dollars, which means most electrosurgical methods cost more than traditional operations to offset tool costs. Simple procedures can be priced as low as $100, while more complicated tumor removals or emergency surgeries may cost well into the thousands. 

Dog Electrosurgery Considerations

Certain risks are associated with the use of electrosurgery. Tissue death often occurs at the surgical site, although this is generally minimal. Problems with the equipment or errors operating it can lead to burns on the dog. It is of the utmost importance that all safety measures are adhered to. The pairing of electronic currents and general anesthesia gases have the potential of creating a fire in the operating room. Because of this risk, alcohol should not be used to disinfect the surgical area before the procedure. 

Delayed hemorrhage is also possible after electrosurgery has been used. A veterinarian using proper technique is key to the success of this method. If the incision needs to be made in a vascular area that covers a large surface, electrosurgery is still considered the safest course of action.

Electrosurgery Prevention in Dogs

Preventing the need for electrosurgery calls for the maintaining of good health in your dog. Decrease your dog's risk of blunt force trauma by keeping it on leash at all times when on walks. Always monitor play with other animals. Giving your dog a high quality diet and providing regular exercise for the animal can reduce the chance of serious health problems that lead to the need for surgery. It's a good idea to request your dog's family health history when obtaining the animal so that you can prepare for or prevent certain genetic conditions from affecting your dog.