Electrosurgery, Jewelry and the GI Suite

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By Marcia L. Morris, MS

Virtually every hospital or freestanding endoscopy center wisely advises patients during scheduling to plan to leave their jewelry at home. If asked why, “the chance of a burn during electrosurgery" is often the reason given.

Should it be? 

First, let’s be clear: patients coming for any medical procedure should leave their jewelry at home for a variety of reasons. However, to be factual with your patients, the risk of an electrosurgical burn should not be at the top of the list of reasons why.

Far greater are the risks of tearing with piercing jewelry snagging on linens, gauze or cables; the risk of loss or theft; and the possibility of swelling if a routine procedure goes awry and more extensive therapy, including IV fluids and surgery, becomes required.  

If you do the right thing (remove jewelry), but for the wrong reason (burn risk), does it matter?

I’ll leave it to the philosophers to answer that for all cases. But in the case of electrosurgery, we should seek answers, because there is already so much misinformation, misunderstanding, and myth surrounding this technology—especially in GI. Not understanding the real risk level involved with jewelry just adds to the muddle.

Myths don’t promote better understanding of how electrosurgery works, or how to manage the real risks.

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