Electrodesiccation is a procedure in which an electrical current is applied to tissue to cause it to wither and die. This procedure is most commonly used by dermatologists in the treatment of certain skin conditions, although it has some other medical applications as well. The process is reasonably safe when conducted properly, and causes minimal scarring. Patients can also often remain awake and alert during the procedure, which makes it a good option when more extensive anesthesia is not an option.
Because electrodesiccation can be somewhat painful or may cause a strange tingling sensation, the doctor usually applies a local anesthetic to the surgical site before proceeding. Patients should inform the doctor if they experience sensations during the procedure, because there is no reason to experience pain or discomfort when it can be prevented with ease. It may be necessary to wait a little longer for the anesthetic to take effect, or to repeat an anesthetic application to ensure that the area is fully covered.
There are several different ways to use electrodesiccation. One method, electrodesiccation and curettage, involves scraping away unwanted material and then applying an electric current to the remaining tissue to stop the bleeding. This technique is used for skin cancers and tumors as seen in neurofibromatosis, with the growth being removed with a blade, and the underlying skin being subjected to electrodesiccation. In addition to managing bleeding, the electrodesiccation will also kill off remaining cancer cells in the area, ensuring that the cancer is fully removed so that rogue cells cannot recur.
This procedure can also be used as a standalone procedure in the treatment of growths such as moles. In this case, an electric probe is inserted into the growth and turned on, killing the tissue in the growth and damaging the blood supply to the growth. The probe is removed, and over time, the growth will shrivel up, die, and eventually fall off, leaving a small scar behind.
After electrodesiccation procedures, the area usually needs to be bandaged to prevent infection, and the patient may need to wash gently with mild soap for several days while the site heals. The damaged tissue will eventually shed, but should not be picked away. Picking can expose the patient to an infection, and may cause a scar to form. Even without picking, electrodesiccation sometimes results in the formation of a small white scar at the site of the procedure.