What is Chemical Cautery?

J. Beam

Chemical cautery is one of two forms of cauterization, the medical term applied to destroying tissue or clotting blood by closing off a part of the body with heat, cold, or caustic substance. This form is cauterization with a chemical agent, while the other main type, electrocautery, is cauterization by electricity. Electrocautery should not be confused with electrosurgery, which is a different procedure altogether.

Silver nitrate may be used to treat mouth ulcers, which can develop as a result of stress.
Silver nitrate may be used to treat mouth ulcers, which can develop as a result of stress.

Developed in the early 20th century as a sinus treatment, chemical cautery is commonly used to perform simple medical procedures that relieve common ailments. Examples include wart removal, treatment of ingrown nails, as well as treatment for sinus problems. It is an in-office procedure, and in the case of relief for sinus pain sufferers, is typically quite simple and painless.

Silver nitrate may be used to treat canker sores, which may develop as a result of trauma to the mouth.
Silver nitrate may be used to treat canker sores, which may develop as a result of trauma to the mouth.

To relieve sinus pain, a medical professional uses chemicals to destroy the mast cells in the sinus cavities that release histamine and other sources of inflammation that leads to sinus pain. Not all patients suffering from sinus pain are eligible for this type of cautery, but those with recurring symptoms that persist in spite of anti-histamine and other drugs are typical candidates. The procedure takes about 15 to 20 minutes and often has to be repeated a few times each year; however, most insurance plans cover the procedure.

Warts can be removed using liquid nitrogen.
Warts can be removed using liquid nitrogen.

Chemical cautery is also used in dermatology to destroy unhealthy skin tissue. Though cryotherapy is sometimes used as a treatment for warts, other forms of cautery can also be effective. Dermatologists, ear nose and throat specialists, dentists, and some family doctors and internists often offer these treatments in their office.

Chemical cautery may be performed by a dentist.
Chemical cautery may be performed by a dentist.

Agents that act as a chemical cautery include phenol, silver nitrate, and liquid nitrogen. Some of these are readily available and can be handy for pet owners as well as people. It is the same principal applied when using styptic powder on pet nails that bleed if trimmed to short. Silver nitrate is also an effective treatment for canker sores or mouth ulcers.

Electric scalpels are used in electrocauterization.
Electric scalpels are used in electrocauterization.
A chemical cautery is a simple procedure that can help relieve sinus pain.
A chemical cautery is a simple procedure that can help relieve sinus pain.

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Discussion Comments

mcanbeyli

As I remember from my circumcision, the circumciser used a liquid substance, looking like water. He sprayed it to my penis and caused severe pain. I think, the liquid was a chemical cautery agent. Do you have an idea about circumcisions, which are performed with chemical cautery?

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