Electrocautery and Cryotherapy

Electrocautery is a surgical procedure in which an electric current is used to heat a scalpel blade or wire to a high temperature. The hot blade or wire is then utilized to cauterize tissue or vessels, and even sometimes, to cut tissue (Eder et al., 2016).

Cryotherapy, on the other hand, is a pain treatment technique in which freezing temperatures are applied to localized areas in bid to inactivate irritated nerves. In dermatology, it is utilized in the treatment of abnormal skin cells (Sonnenberg, McMullen & Solbiati, 2008).

Electrocautery was first utilized in Spain in the early periods of 1900s. The discovery that high frequency alternating current in the range of 250,000 to 2,000,000 Hz could be used to incise coagulated tissue to attain homeostasis was made by Bovie in 1928 (Eder et al., 2016). In neurosurgery, the technique was made popular by Cushing after which it gained widespread utilization in other medical fields including dermatology.

Cryotherapy has a long history, dating back to ancient Egypt in 2500BCE. Starting from 1845 to 1851, an English doctor, Dr. James Arnott described the advantages of local cold application to treat a wide range of conditions including neuralgia, headaches, breast cancer and even skin cancer (Freiman & Bouganim, 2005). He also came up with a device for cold application, but it proved cumbersome to use. The development of a system for cooling gases started in 1877 with Picet of Switzerland and Cailletet of France. Further developments led to the introduction of Solidified carbon dioxide and liquid nitrogen (Freiman & Bouganim, 2005). Various cryosurgical apparatuses using different agents have been developed over the years.


Eder, J. C., Benjamin, T. N. I., Edelstein, P. S., Nezhat, C., Kane, M., & Walberg, E. (2016). Electrocautery method and apparatus. U.S. Patent No. 9,339,323. Washington, DC: U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
Freiman, A & Bouganim, N (2005) History of cryotherapy. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/4f62h9vt
Griffith, A. J., & Friedman, T. B. (2016). Ballenger’s Otorhinolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery.
Livraghi, T., Mueller, P. R., & Silverman, S. G. (2008). Tumor ablation: principles and practice. Springer Science & Business Media.