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Am J Surg. 2000 Jan;179(1):67-73.

Complications and recommended practices for electrosurgery in laparoscopy.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Tainan Municipal Hospital, Taiwan.



Electrosurgery is one of the most commonly used energy systems in laparoscopic surgery. Two major categories of potential complications related to electrosurgery in laparoscopy are mechanical trauma and electrothermal injury. The latter can result from unrecognized energy transfer in the operational field or, less commonly, to unnoticed stray current outside the laparoscopic field of view. Stray current can result from insulation failure, direct coupling, or capacitive coupling.


We reviewed the literature concerning essential biophysics of electrosurgery, including electrosurgical waveform differentiation, tissue effect, and variables that determine tissue effect. The incidence of electrosurgical injuries and possible mechanisms responsible for the injuries are discussed. Different types of injuries may result in different clinical manifestations and histopathological findings. Gross and microscopic pathological check-ups of the injury sites may distinguish between different mechanisms, and thus provide further clues postoperatively.


Several recommended practices are proposed to avoid electrosurgical injury laparoscopically. To achieve electrosurgical safety and to prevent electrosurgical injuries, the surgical team should have a good understanding of the biophysics of electrosurgery, the basis of equipment and general tissue effects, as well as the surgeon's spatial orientation and hand-eye coordination. Some intraoperative adjuvant procedures and newly developed safety devices have become available may aid to improve electrosurgical safety.


Knowledge of the biophysics of electrosurgery and the mechanisms of electrosurgical injury is important in recognizing potential complications of electrosurgery in laparoscopy. Procedures for prevention, intraoperative adjuvant maneuvers, early recognition of the injury with in-time salvage treatment, and alertness to postoperative warning signs can help reduce such complications.

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