Some patients with neurofibromatosis may develop hundreds of superficial skin tumors. They can occur virtually anywhere on the body and can be quite disfiguring. These tumors represent small cutaneous neurofibromas that can be so numerous that removing them individually can be quite scarring and time-consuming.
What is electrodesiccation?
Electrodesiccation is a technique used to remove small surface neurofibromas and to help improve the overall contour of the involved area. By applying a brief electrical impulse through the tumor using a specialized probe, it causes “desiccation” or drying of the tissue by heating up only the water content. This results in a dried out bump or skin lesion without causing a significant burn. The treated tissue dies and a small wound takes its place. This goes on to heal on its own with ingrowth of new skin. It is important to note that electrodesiccation does not always result in complete eradication of neurofibromas. Neurofibromatosis is more like a network of tumors of all sizes that are interconnected. They more often resemble “roots of a tree” than a single tumor. This is an important distinction because electrodesiccation will only treat the superficial portions creating the bump and not the deeper tumors. Therefore, to some degree, the neurofibromas will persist beneath the level of the skin. Although treated areas do not typically develop tumors again, there is a chance of new tumors growing immediately adjacent to these areas as a result of progression of the disease process. However, the overall improvement of the skin contour can improve aesthetics and restore confidence dramatically.
Cutaneous neurofibromas occurring in discrete areas can often be treated with topical or local anesthetic injection in the office setting. However, many patients experience a diffuse pattern of skin involvement with multiple nodules occurring over the entire body. For these patients, electrodesiccation can be done with a short general anesthetic in an operating room in order to treat hundreds of skin tumors in one session. Following the procedure, patients are required to apply an antibiotic ointment for 5 days, then a gentle moisturizing cream on a daily basis. Sun exposure of treated areas is to be avoided for up to 1 year or more. This can be achieved with judicious use of sunblock on a daily basis. Depending on the severity and number of skin tumors present, electrodesiccation may need to be performed again to fully treat areas of heavy tumor involvement or simply for touchups.
Electrodesiccation may be used for many other skin blemishes and tumors including sun spots, skin tags, syringomas, basal cell carcinomas, pyogenic granulomas, cherry angiomas, and many other conditions. Call Dr. Panossian today to find out if electrodesiccation is an option for you.