Is diathermy used to destroy cells?

You may have heard about cancer and understand how devastating life can be for those who suffer from cancer disease. If you ask a doctor, you would know that there are many kinds of cancers that can affect a person’s life. Do you know that there are a number of ways of eliminating cancer cells? One of them is through diathermy. It is worth taking note that not all cancer cells can be destroyed as some may not be removed due to being complicated cases. Throughout this article, you will understand more about diathermy.

Diathermy is the use of electrical current to cur or coagulate tissue during surgery. Diathermy uses very high frequencies of electrical current with alternate polarity radio-waves. High electrical current is needed when using diathermy as it avoids the electrical current generated by the body system such as the cardiac tissue or skeletal muscle. This enables diathermy to be used without affecting the body physiology.

The way diathermy works to cut tissue or coagulate is through the heat generated by the radio-frequencies. This heat will then heat the tissue and produce different results depending on the temperature of the diathermy itself. For example, at 60 degree Celsius, cell death occurs, between 60 to 90 degrees Celsius it will cause tissue to coagulate and tissue is cut as it evaporates when it reaches 100 degree Celsius. As described by Joule’s law, the more heat is produced, the more tissue is damaged.

Diathermy can be either monopolar or bipolar. These configurations allow surgery to be done accurately and precisely. Unipolar diathermy consists of a probe with one electrode and a large plate containing the other probe. The large plate is placed elsewhere on the patient to complete the electrical circuit. This specific plate is known as a “grounding plate”. Bipolar diathermy consists of a pair of forceps with a separated electrode on each point. Bipolar diathermy minimises the current passing between probes which is helpful when working on electrically sensitive tissue such as the brain, patient with pacemakers to avoid interfering electric from the pacemaker, operations on digits such as finger or microsurgery. The bipolar arrangement allows electrical current to be passed between electrodes as there is an active and a return of the two poles.

While diathermy is proven to be beneficial to surgery, similar to many other tools, it comes with risk when using it. Risk of severe burn may occur if the plate is not placed properly. The plate should be positioned as close to the operative site and avoidance toward places that can cause burns such as bony edge, metal prosthesis, over scar tissue, hairy surface or pressure point. In the old days, risk for electrocution was possible and can affect both health personnel and patients. Diathermy may also produce smoke and contaminant inhalation but can be avoided when wearing an appropriate mask and surgery is in well ventilated areas. Most of the risk from diathermy is minimised nowadays and with modern machines, pose less possible danger.

You may wonder, ‘is diathermy used to destroy cells?’. Yes, it can do that. This is as explained earlier due to the heat generated through radio-frequencies. Although diathermy is mostly used in surgery, there is also its usage apart from the surgery procedure. Diathermy is also used for treatment such as to relieve pain, stiffness and muscle spasms, It may also help to reduce joint contractures. In other words, diathermy may be used as therapeutic treatment for muscle and joint conditions.

For muscle and joint conditions, there are 3 types of diathermies used which are shortwave, microwave and ultrasound. Shortwave diathermy produces heat by using high-frequency electromagnetic energy. Microwave diathermy produces heat that is unable to penetrate deep muscle or tissue such as shortwave diathermy. Ultrasound diathermy uses sound waves to produce heat and is able to promote blood flow.

Those who plan to go for diathermy either surgically or not, should be aware that implanted metal devices such as pacemaker, spinal cord stimulators, prosthesis or intrauterine device (IUD), could pose risk of injury when diathermy is used on them. It is important to notify healthcare providers before diathermy is used on the body if there are any implanted metal devices. Some health conditions may prevent a person from getting diathermy such as those with cancer, infections, chronic bleeding disorder, heart disease, kidney disease or pregnancy. It is best to discuss with your healthcare provider whenever you are about to go for a medical procedure.

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It can be concluded that diathermy is used to destroy cells which you may find abundant information on this for cancer cells. Diathermy is one of the methods used in many kinds of surgery. Diathermy is also used apart from surgery such as for muscle and joint condition without being invasive. It is best to have a thorough discussion before undergoing a surgery or any treatment to ensure the patient is healed in a safe way with minimise side effects or complications.