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What is Fulguration?

Mary McMahon
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Fulguration is a medical procedure that involves using a high voltage electric current to destroy tissue. This procedure is performed to kill tumors, remove ulcers, and treat other types of lesions in and on the body. It is performed by a surgeon who has received specialized training in order to perform electrosurgery safely and effectively. Depending on the nature of the procedure, it may be performed in an operating room or surgical clinic.

In traditional fulguration, also known as electrofulguration, the surgeon holds an electrode shaped like a needle just over the area of the tissue involved. Sparks jump from the needle to the tissue, burning it in the process. The charred tissue is killed and cannot regrow. Using the electrode, the surgeon can carefully control the amount of tissue that is killed and the depth of the fulguration. The goal is to damage the tissue, not to remove it.

People may also use this term to refer to techniques using lasers. Medical lasers can be adjusted to perform a number of different functions including cauterizing tissue to stop bleeding, cutting through tissue, and damaging tissue so that it will not grow back. When lasers are used for fulguration, the surgeon selects the appropriate setting and positions the laser with care to target only the desired area and avoid damage to surrounding tissues.

The destruction of tissue with electric current is most commonly recommended in the case of oncology treatment. Fulguration can be used to destroy a tumor at the site and may be an option when it is not possible to remove a tumor with a resection procedure. It can also be used to thoroughly destroy the margins that surround a tumor in order to reduce the risk of recurrence. Other uses for fulguration can include obliterating ulcers and other lesions that cannot be surgically removed.

When fulguration is recommended to a patient as a treatment option, it can be helpful to ask why a surgeon is recommending it and what other treatment options may be available. Patients may also want to discuss possible treatment outcomes so that they have an idea about what to expect. Discussing surgical recovery before the surgery takes place is also recommended, as it gives patients an opportunity to prepare ahead of time. Talking to patients who have undergone the procedure can be helpful for people who are worried or who want some tips from someone who has successfully recovered.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a The Health Board researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By kylee07drg — On Jun 29, 2011

My grandfather developed colorectal cancer, and his surgeon used electrofulguration. The surgeon removed the cancerous polyps and the tissues surrounding the polyps. He took out a large section of my grandfather’s rectum.

The electrofulguration was successful! My grandfather recovered quite well and is still alive a decade after the surgery.

By orangey03 — On Jun 28, 2011

@wavy58 - Unfortunately, they are incurable. Most people with Hunner’s ulcers develop new ones and more pain within three to nine months of fulguration.

Though my brother did not experience this, his doctor did warn him that fulguration could cause bladder wall scarring, because it essentially burns the bladder’s surface. If this happened, his bladder’s capacity would have decreased.

By wavy58 — On Jun 28, 2011

Does fulguration cure Hunner’s ulcers? My friend’s mom just got diagnosed with them, but she didn’t tell me if they were curable or not. I hope for her sake that they are.

By StarJo — On Jun 27, 2011

My brother developed lesions on his bladder called Hunner’s ulcers. These ulcers inflamed the nerves surrounding them, and as the bladder stretched to fill with urine and empties to release it, the ulcers cause him a lot of pain.

His doctor treated him with fulguration of the ulcers. This fulguration destroyed local nerves and decreased the inflammation-causing substances.

His pain improved greatly. He was eager to try the procedure when his doctor told him that fulguration of Hunner’s ulcers has shown 50% improvement in the pain of over 90% of those inflicted with them.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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