Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Ultrasonic scalpel causes greater depth of soft tissue necrosis compared to monopolar electrocautery at standard power level settings in a pig model

Kia Homayounfar1*, Johanna Meis1, Klaus Jung2, Bernd Klosterhalfen3, Thilo Sprenger1, Lena-Christin Conradi1, Claus Langer4 and Heinz Becker1

Author affiliations

1 Department of General and Visceral Surgery, University Medical Center Goettingen, Georg-August-University, Robert-Koch-Strasse 40, 37075 Goettingen, Germany

2 Department of Medical Statistics, University Medical Center Goettingen, Georg- August-University, Humboldtallee 32, 37075, Goettingen, Germany

3 Institute of Pathology, Roonstr. 30, 52351 Dueren, Germany

4 Department of General, Visceral, Thoracic and Minimal-invasive Surgery, Evangelic Hospital Goettingen-Weende, An der Lutter 24, 37075 Goettingen, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Surgery 2012, 12:3  doi:10.1186/1471-2482-12-3

Published: 23 February 2012



Ultrasonic scalpel (UC) and monopolar electrocautery (ME) are common tools for soft tissue dissection. However, morphological data on the related tissue alteration are discordant. We developed an automatic device for standardized sample excision and compared quality and depth of morphological changes caused by UC and ME in a pig model.


100 tissue samples (5 × 3 cm) of the abdominal wall were excised in 16 pigs. Excisions were randomly performed manually or by using the self-constructed automatic device at standard power levels (60 W cutting in ME, level 5 in UC) for abdominal surgery. Quality of tissue alteration and depth of coagulation necrosis were examined histopathologically. Device (UC vs. ME) and mode (manually vs. automatic) effects were studied by two-way analysis of variance at a significance level of 5%.


At the investigated power level settings UC and ME induced qualitatively similar coagulation necroses. Mean depth of necrosis was 450.4 ± 457.8 μm for manual UC and 553.5 ± 326.9 μm for automatic UC versus 149.0 ± 74.3 μm for manual ME and 257.6 ± 119.4 μm for automatic ME. Coagulation necrosis was significantly deeper (p < 0.01) when UC was used compared to ME. The mode of excision (manual versus automatic) did not influence the depth of necrosis (p = 0.85). There was no significant interaction between dissection tool and mode of excision (p = 0.93).


Thermal injury caused by UC and ME results in qualitatively similar coagulation necrosis. The depth of necrosis is significantly greater in UC compared to ME at investigated standard power levels.