Education and engineering solutions for potential problems with laparoscopic monopolar electrosurgery

Am J Surg. 1992 Jul;164(1):57-62. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9610(05)80648-8.


The potential problems of monopolar electrosurgery relate to unrecognized energy transfer ("stray current") outside the view of the laparoscope. Mechanisms of stray current and unrecognized tissue injury include: (1) insulation breaks in electrodes; (2) capacitive coupling, or induced currents through the intact insulation of the active electrode to surrounding cannulas or other instruments; and (3) direct coupling (or unintended contact) between the active electrode and other metal instruments or cannulas within the abdomen. Capacitive coupling poses the greatest risk for injury when the outer conductor (trocar cannula or irrigation cannula) is electrically isolated from the abdominal wall by a plastic nonconductor. Capacitive coupling is increased by the coagulation mode (versus cut), open circuit (versus tissue contact with the electrode), 5-mm cannulas (versus 11 mm), and higher voltage generators. The safety of electrosurgery can be enhanced by surgical education regarding the biophysics of radio frequency electrical energy, technical choices in instruments using all-metal cannula systems, and engineering developments with a dynamically monitored system for insulation failure and capacitive coupling.

MeSH terms

  • Electric Conductivity
  • Electrosurgery / adverse effects
  • Electrosurgery / instrumentation*
  • Equipment Design
  • Equipment Failure
  • Equipment Safety
  • General Surgery / education*
  • Humans
  • Intraoperative Complications / etiology
  • Intraoperative Complications / prevention & control
  • Laparoscopes*
  • Laparoscopy / adverse effects