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Niger Postgrad Med J. 2019 Apr-Jun;26(2):100-105. doi: 10.4103/npmj.npmj_25_19.

Surgical outcome of cutting diathermy versus scalpel skin incisions in uncomplicated appendectomy: A comparative study.

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Department of Surgery, Federal Medical Center, Owo, Ondo State, Nigeria.
Department of Surgery, College of Health Sciences, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Nigeria.



It is traditionally believed that diathermy skin incisions produce a comparatively poorer surgical outcome despite recent evidences to the contrary. This study set out to compare diathermy and scalpel skin incisions with respect to immediate post-operative pain, surgical-site infection and surgical scar cosmesis.


This was a randomised, double-blinded study comparing cutting diathermy and scalpel skin incisions in patients undergoing open appendectomies for uncomplicated appendicitis. The post-operative pain was rated with the Visual Analogue Pain Scale 6, 12 and 24 h postoperatively, and 30 day wound infection was rated with the Southampton score. Scar cosmesis was assessed at 3 months, by a plastic surgery trainee, using the Patient and Observer Scar Assessment Scale (POSAS). The patients also self-evaluated their scars using POSAS.


A total of 64 patients were randomised to cutting diathermy (32) and scalpel (32) skin incision groups. The mean pain score was higher in the diathermy incised wounds, but this was not statistically significant (P = 0.094). There was one wound infection recorded in the scalpel incision group and none in the diathermy incision group (P = 0.524). At 3 months post-surgery, there was no difference between the diathermy and scalpel incised wounds in mean (±SD) objective POSAS scores (15.64 [±5.98] vs. 17.79 [±6.37], P = 0.228) or subjective POSAS scores (22.44 [±13.13] vs. 22.21 [±13.17], P = 0.951), respectively. The mean scar satisfaction score, as assessed by the patients, was better for the diathermy incised wounds, but this was not statistically significant (P = 0.406).


In patients undergoing open appendectomy for uncomplicated acute appendicitis, skin incision with a cutting diathermy is not inferior to the scalpel in surgical outcome, with respect to post-operative pain, wound infection and surgical scar cosmesis.


Appendectomy; diathermy; scalpel

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