Coagulation is the process through which a liquid is formed into a semi-solid mass. For example, when a healthy person is cut, the blood quickly coagulates, or forms clots, in the wounded area to stop the bleeding. A coagulator is a substance or device that promotes coagulation.
Coagulator medical devices have been developed over the past several decades for use in surgery. If a surgeon can stop the blood flow in a site quickly, or prevent excessive bleeding in the surrounding tissues, then he is able to perform longer, more intricate procedures without the complications caused by excessive blood loss. These electrosurgery devices employ electrical charges that apply heat to an area during surgery to control the bleeding, and are often attached to microforceps or microscissors, allowing a minimally invasive procedure.
Monopolar and bipolar models have shielded electric probes which use electrical charges to create a directed burn without even having to touch the tissue. The bipolar versions are popular in neurosurgery, while some plastic surgeons prefer the monopolar model when performing aesthetic surgery. The monopolar device requires less current, which results in less damage to surrounding tissue and reduced edema, or swelling. An argon beam coagulator uses argon gas in addition to electricity to stop bleeding and is instrumental in treating endometriosis and other disorders.
People who suffer from hemophilia have an insufficient supply of coagulants, or the platelets and other natural blood clotting substances. Coagulator medicines have been developed to perform the function of the missing elements, which helps to limit the bleeding episodes and allows the patient a more normal level of activity. Another form of coagulator is a computerized device that analyzes and processes blood samples.
An infrared coagulator device has also been developed to remove tattoos. It works by making a small, second-degree burn on the tattoo. The site is then treated with antibiotic ointment and cream. Once the area heals, there is a flat scar, but the tattoo ink is gone. This offers a less time-consuming and often more affordable option than laser removal for removing a tattoo that is no longer wanted.
While medicine is a leading user of coagulators, natural and chemical coagulants are common in industries ranging from making tofu to purifying water. Aluminum sulfate, or alum, is a coagulator often involved in the treatment and reclamation of wastewater because it encourages solids to lump together, making them easier to filter out. Other agents are available which absorb heavy metals, dyes and hazardous materials. Desalination plants, which convert salt water to drinking water, often use ferric chloride as a coagulator to assist in removing unwanted substances from the water.