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IEEE Trans Biomed Eng. 2008 Feb;55(2 Pt 2):838-41. doi: 10.1109/TBME.2007.914539.

Electrosurgery with cellular precision.

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Department of Ophthalmology and Hansen Experimental Physics Laboratory, Stanford University, 452 Lomita Mall, Stanford, CA 94305-4085 USA.


Electrosurgery, one of the most-often used surgical tools, is a robust but somewhat crude technology that has changed surprisingly little since its invention almost a century ago. Continuous radiofrequency is still used for tissue cutting, with thermal damage extending to hundreds of micrometers. In contrast, lasers developed 70 years later, have been constantly perfected, and the laser-tissue interactions explored in great detail, which has allowed tissue ablation with cellular precision in many laser applications. We discuss mechanisms of tissue damage by electric field, and demonstrate that electrosurgery with properly optimized waveforms and microelectrodes can rival many advanced lasers. Pulsed electric waveforms with burst durations ranging from 10 to 100 micros applied via insulated planar electrodes with 12 microm wide exposed edges produced plasma-mediated dissection of tissues with the collateral damage zone ranging from 2 to 10 microm. Length of the electrodes can vary from micrometers to centimeters and all types of soft tissues-from membranes to cartilage and skin could be dissected in liquid medium and in a dry field. This technology may allow for major improvements in outcomes of the current surgical procedures and development of much more refined surgical techniques.

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