Bovie, Cautery and Electrosurgery Shouldn’t Be Confusing

Electrosurgery has been around since 1926, when William T. Bovie, a Harvard PhD first introduced the technique to a colleague who had previously been unsuccessful in removing a tumor from a patient’s head due to excessive bleeding. Dr. Bovie assisted Dr. Harvey W. Cushing with the use of electrosurgery to remove the mass with very little bleeding, and the operation was a resounding success.

86 years have passed since that initial use of electrosurgery, and it has has become a mainstay in operating rooms, with over 80% of all surgeries involving the practice. Dr. Bovie’s name has become synonymous with his invention: surgeons refer to their equipment as their “Bovie“, and bovie cautery (both of these are misused by the way) is the catchphrase for electrosurgery.  However, if a surgeon or nurse  refers to an ESU (electrosurgicl unit) as their Bovie, it needs to say Bovie® on the face of the unit.  Bovie is a registered trademark of Bovie Medical Corporation.  While we are flattered that Bovie is synonoymus with electrosurgery, to prevent the misuse of a registered trademark of the United States Patent and Trademark office, it really needs to say Bovie® on the product.

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Amazingly, the technique and principals have changed very little over the decades; the significant changes are in safety, electronic technology and the advancements in electrosurgical accessories.  When someone uses the term Bovie Cautery and is referring to an ESU they are once again mistaken.  A Bovie cautery should refer to Bovie’s line of battery operated cauteries.  Bovie is the worlds largest producer of battery operated cauteries.  They do their work with heat…fairly high heat at that.  A high termperature cautery operaties in the vicinity of 2200 degrees fahrenheit.  That is NOT how a Bovie ESU works.  In fact heat has virtually nothing to do with it.  An ESU does it’s magic by blowing apart the cells to cut and by dehydrating the cells to coagulate (stop bleeding).

Battery powered cauteries today are available in high and low temperatures, the low temperature ones are mainly used in ophthalmology, offering “pinpoint precision”. High temperature cauteries offer great versatility and are commonly used in a wide range of procedures such as relief of a subungual hematoma, vasectomies, sculpting woven grafts and for what they were originally used for, to stop small bleeders. For situations where reusability is desired, the Bovie cautery lineup offers the Change-A-Tip; a replaceable battery and tip cautery that offers both high and low temperature, depending on the model, and is most often used in the doctors office where cost savings is important and in veterinary medicine.  Hospitals nearly 100% of the time use the one time use, sterile disposable cauteries.

A Bovie electrosurgical unit or battery operated cautery, enables surgeons to select the optimal instrument for a specific procedure, providing the greatest potential for a successful outcome.

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