Alternative names  

Cauterization is the process of destroying tissue by using chemical corrosion or electricity, or by heating or freezing it. Electrocautery is done using a small probe, which has an electric current running through it, to cauterize (burn or destroy) the tissue. It is frequently used to stop bleeding.


Electrocautery is a safe procedure and is routinely used in surgery to burn unwanted or harmful tissue. It is also used to reduce or stop hemorrhaging by “burning” the bleeding blood vessels, which seals them off. Various types, shapes, and sizes of probe tips are available for specific treatments.

A small electrode is applied to the skin near the surgery site. This is used to collect the electricity from the body and safely discharge it back to the machine. A grounding pad is placed on the person’s body (usually the thigh) before the surgery to protect the patient.

Johns Hopkins patient information

Last revised: December 2, 2012
by Arthur A. Poghosian, M.D.

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