Electrodesiccation

Some people with neurofibromatosis come to develop hundreds of superficial skin tumors. These tumors can occur virtually anywhere on the body and can be quite disfiguring. They represent small cutaneous neurofibromas that can be so numerous that removing them individually can be quite time-consuming and may result in significant scarring. Andre Panossian, MD, a highly-qualified plastic surgeon in Los Angeles, CA, uses electrodesiccation to treat these neurofibromas and various other skin deformities for patients who are looking for a solution with less risk involved.

Hundreds of small neurofibroma tumors on an arm that electrodesiccation treats.
Hundreds of small neurofibroma tumors on an arm that electrodesiccation treats.

What is Electrodesiccation?

Electrodesiccation is a non-surgical procedure that uses electrical impulses to destroy both benign and cancerous superficial skin growths. 

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. New, healthy skin then forms over the treated area.

Electrodesiccation is most commonly performed on patients with neurofibromatosis. Neurofibromas are non-cancerous, but the number of tumors that may develop can cause medical and cosmetic problems, especially in patients with a large number of tumors. 

Neurofibromatosis tumors are progressive, meaning that they get larger over time, and new growths may appear even after the initial treatment. Patients may need additional treatments if and when new neurofibromas occur. Large tumors may need surgical removal.

Electrodesiccation electrosurigcal device called Conmed Hyfrecator 2000.
Electrodesiccation electrosurigcal device
called Conmed Hyfrecator 2000.

The Procedure

Regardless of the number of tumors, the electrodesiccation procedure remains essentially the same. However, the anesthesia type, length of the procedure, and where the treatment must be performed depends on the patient’s skin condition, the number of growths, and other factors. Well before the day of the procedure, the doctor will decide on the best technique and anesthesia type according to the patient’s individual needs. 

Fewer cutaneous neurofibromas occurring in isolated areas can often be quickly treated with only topical or local anesthetic injections in an 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 period of general anesthetic in an operating room in order to treat hundreds of skin tumors in one session.

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Before the treatment begins, anesthesia is used to numb the area or general anesthesia is administered. Dr. Panossian then turns on a specialized device equipped with a sharp, pointed tool and begins puncturing each tumor, allowing the tool to send an electrical impulse deep into the growth. 

Depending on the size of each growth, the doctor will pause momentarily or for up to a few seconds. This allows the electrical impulse to reach the entire tumor and its root. When treated with the tool, the center of the tumor darkens and the bump flattens. The surrounding skin will temporarily swell as histamines are released. 

Once he has systematically worked through each growth in the treatment area, Dr. Panossian will go over the growths once again with the tool to ensure that desiccation has occurred in each lesion, especially the larger tumors. If not, he may cut away any remaining root material. 

Dr. Panossian develops a custom treatment plan for each patient. Depending on the severity and number of skin tumors present, electrodesiccation may need to be performed again in the future to fully treat areas of heavy tumor involvement or simply for touch-ups.

Recovery and Healing

Recovery after electrodesiccation is usually very simple. Dr. Panossian and his staff provide each patient with detailed care instructions to help ensure proper healing and good results. 

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 ample daily use of sunblock.

I had an extremely successful surgery with Dr. Panossian. It went exactly as he explained it from start to finish. He has a wonderful bedside manner and is professionally attentive. His staff is amazing. He is a wise choice.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can neurofibromas be removed for good?

While the treatment is generally very effective, 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 the progression of the disease. However, the overall improvement of skin contour can improve aesthetics and restore confidence dramatically.

How do I know if electrodesiccation is right for me?

Electrodessication is ideal for people with neurofibromatosis type 1 and may be appropriate for people with other skin conditions. Dr. Panossian will review your case and individual candidacy during an initial evaluation. 

The procedure is best performed when the skin growths are still quite small. Larger tumors may require more invasive treatments and surgical removal. If a few larger tumors are present, they may be removed surgically after the electrodessication treatment.

Neurofibromatosis is a genetic disorder (caused by mutations in the NF1 gene) that usually presents from a young age and can be monitored in children as they grow. This allows for early treatment whenever possible. 

Call Dr. Panossian today to find out if electrodesiccation is an option for you.

What are the possible complications of electrodesiccation treatment?

As with any procedure, there are some health and safety risks associated with electrodessication, but they are relatively minor. Infection, discomfort, swelling, bleeding, and crusting are all possible following treatment. More serious side effects are rare but will be discussed during your consultation. 

Dr. Panossian takes care and precautions to reduce complications and to make the treatment as safe and comfortable as possible. Most patients heal very well and experience only minor, temporary side effects. 

How much does neurofibromatosis surgery cost?

Each patient’s case is different. Some people have just a few tumors, while others have hundreds. The cost of the procedure will vary dramatically based on the length of the treatment, the type of anesthesia required, and the number and size of the tumors. 

Our office will work with you to determine the cost of electrodesiccation at the time of your consultation appointment. Some patients may be able to get coverage from their health insurance providers. Our staff will work with you to decide on a payment option that works for you.

What is electrodesiccation and curettage?

This type of technique involves “scooping out” affected tissues before using the ED device to minimize bleeding and to eliminate remaining affected cells. This technique is often used for low-risk skin cancer lesions or precancerous lesions.

What neurofibromatosis type can be treated with electrodesiccation?

Generally, electrodesiccation is used to treat neurofibromatosis type 1, which is the most common type of the condition. Electrodesiccation may also be used for many other skin blemishes and tumors including sun spots, skin tags, syringomas, basal cell carcinomas (skin cancer), pyogenic granulomas, cherry angiomas, and many other conditions. It is not typically used for more aggressive tumors, such as melanoma.

Learn More About Our NF1 Treatment Today

Neurofibromas can affect both your health and self-esteem. Dr. Andre Panossian is an expert in electrodesiccation, neurosurgical treatments, and cosmetic surgery. He can help you resolve superficial tumors to enhance your well-being. Call 626-765-6885 today to schedule your consultation at Dr. Panossian’s Pasadena, CA practice.

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Last modified by Dr. Andre Panossian