Electrodessication (Dermatology)

Electrodessication is a quick and simple office-based technique where an electrical current is used to remove specific skin lesions such as sebaceous hyperplasia, cherry angiomas, seborrheic keratoses, skin tags, and brown spots.

The Procedure

  • The skin area concerned is cleaned using an alcohol wipe and anesthesia is administered, if necessary.
  • A needle-shaped electrode is used to deliver a high frequency electric current to super heat a pinpointed area of the skin. This pen-like device is fitted with a metal probe at the tip, which is placed close to the skin so that electricity can flow to and heat the targeted area. The high voltage current dries out cells that are not wanted on the skin’s surface.
  • In order to stop bleeding, an electrosurgical device may then be used to cauterize an area of normal tissue. A scab forms in the treated area, which usually resolves within one to three weeks, depending on the patient’s skin type and how aggressive the treatment was. Larger or longer lasting lesions may require additional treatments.

After the Procedure

Immediately following the procedure, an antibiotic ointment or white pertolatum is applied to the area, which is then covered with a dressing. The patient is given instructions that they must follow at home in order to take care of the wound. These include the following:

  • Keep the area dry by not washing it for 24 to 48 hours, to enable the healing process to begin
  • After this time, gentle soap and water can be used to cleanse the area
  • Vaseline can be applied twice daily to any areas on the face and scalp and once daily to other parts of the body
  • A plaster with antibiotic ointment or white petrolatum may be applied daily, but this is not usually necessary
  • Once the scab has healed, wear clothing that protects the skin from the sun and a sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30

Depending on the size, location, and how deep the lesion penetrated, it may take up to three weeks for it to heal.

Side Effects

Electrodessication is a very safe procedure and serious complications are extremely rare. Discomfort associated with the procedure is temporary and scabs that form where the growth had been usually heal within three weeks. Scarring and permanent skin discoloration are very uncommon. Infection is also unlikely, although all surgical procedures are associated with some degree of infection risk, which is why patients are asked to strictly follow the wound care instructions they are given. Electrodessication can potentially cause pacemakers to dysfunction and the procedure is not usually recommended for patients with implanted electrical devices.

Reviewed by Susha Cheriyedath, MSc

Sources

Last Updated: Jan 4, 2017

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