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Related to diathermy: surgical diathermy


the use of high-frequency electromagnetic currents as a form of physical therapy and in surgical procedures. The term diathermy is derived from the Greek words dia and therma, and literally means “heating through.” adj., adj diather´mal, diather´mic.

Diathermy is used in physical therapy to deliver moderate heat directly to pathologic lesions in the deeper tissues of the body. Surgically, the extreme heat that can be produced by diathermy may be used to destroy neoplasms, warts, and infected tissues, and to cauterize blood vessels to prevent excessive bleeding. The technique is particularly valuable in neurosurgery and surgery of the eye.

The three forms of diathermy employed by physical therapists are short wave, ultrasound, and microwave. The application of moderate heat by diathermy increases blood flow and speeds up metabolism and the rate of ion diffusion across cellular membranes. The fibrous tissues in tendons, joint capsules, and scars are more easily stretched when subjected to heat, thus facilitating the relief of stiffness of joints and promoting relaxation of the muscles and decrease of muscle spasms.

Short wave diathermy machines utilize two condenser plates that are placed on either side of the body part to be treated. Another mode of application is by induction coils that are pliable and can be molded to fit the part of the body under treatment. As the high-frequency waves travel through the body tissues between the condensers or the coils, they are converted into heat. The degree of heat and depth of penetration depend in part on the absorptive and resistance properties of the tissues that the waves encounter.

The frequency allowed for short wave diathermy operations is under the control of the Federal Communications Commission. The frequencies assigned for short wave diathermy operations are 13.66, 27.33, and 40.98 megahertz. Most commercial machines operate at a frequency of 27.33 megahertz and a wavelength of 11 meters.

Short wave diathermy usually is prescribed for treatment of deep muscles and joints that are covered with a heavy soft-tissue mass, for example, the hip. In some instances short wave diathermy may be applied to localize deep inflammatory processes, as in pelvic inflammatory disease.

Ultrasound diathermy employs high-frequency acoustic vibrations which, when propelled through the tissues, are converted into heat. This type of diathermy is especially useful in the delivery of heat to selected musculatures and structures because there is a difference in the sensitivity of various fibers to the acoustic vibrations; some are more absorptive and some are more reflective. For example, in subcutaneous fat, relatively little energy is converted into heat, but in muscle tissues there is a much higher rate of conversion to heat.

The therapeutic ultrasound apparatus generates a high-frequency alternating current, which is then converted into acoustic vibrations. The apparatus is moved slowly across the surface of the part being treated. Ultrasound is a very effective agent for the application of heat, but it should be used only by a therapist who is fully aware of its potential hazards and the contraindications for its use.

Microwave diathermy uses radar waves, which are of higher frequency and shorter wavelength than radio waves. Most, if not all, of the therapeutic effects of microwave therapy are related to the conversion of energy into heat and its distribution throughout the body tissues. This mode of diathermy is considered to be the easiest to use, but the microwaves have a relatively poor depth of penetration.

Microwaves cannot be used in high dosage on edematous tissue, over wet dressings, or near metallic implants in the body because of the danger of local burns. Microwaves and short waves cannot be used on or near persons with implanted electronic cardiac pacemakers.

As with all forms of heat applications, care must be taken to avoid burns during diathermy treatments, especially to patients with decreased sensitivity to heat and cold.
surgical diathermy electrocoagulation with an electrocautery of high frequency; often used for sealing blood vessels or stopping the bleeding of incised vessels.


Local elevation of temperature within the tissues, produced by high frequency current, ultrasonic waves, or microwave radiation.
Synonym(s): transthermia
[G. dia, through, + thermē, heat]


/di·a·ther·my/ (di´ah-ther″me) the heating of body tissues due to their resistance to the passage of high-frequency electromagnetic radiation, electric current, or ultrasonic waves.
short wave diathermy  diathermy with high-frequency current, with frequency from 10 million to 100 million cycles per second and wavelength from 30 to 3 meters.


The therapeutic generation of local heat in body tissues by high-frequency electromagnetic currents.

di′a·ther′mic (-mĭk) adj.


Etymology: Gk, dia + therme, heat
the production of heat in body tissues for therapeutic purposes by high-frequency currents that are insufficiently intense to destroy tissues or to impair their vitality. Diathermy is used in treating chronic arthritis, bursitis, fractures, gynecological diseases, sinusitis, and other conditions.


Sports medicine The use of high-frequency electromagnetic waves to ↑ temperature of deep tissues due to resistance to the passage of energy Types Microwave diathermy, shortwave diathermy. See Microwave diathermy, Shortwave diathermy Surgery Cauterization, see there.


Therapeutic use of short or ultrashort waves of electromagnetic energy to heat muscular tissue.


The use of high-frequency alternating current to heat or burn tissues. Diathermy can be used to produce a diffuse warming effect or an intense local cutting or coagulating effect for bloodless surgery.


Also called electrocautery, this is a procedure that heats and destroys abnormal cells. It is gradually being replaced by cryosurgery, lasers, or LEEP.
Mentioned in: Colposcopy


local elevation of tissue temperature by application of electric current, ultrasound or microwaves

diathermy (dīˑ··thr·mē),

n a treatment that uses pulsations of electrical energy to generate heat and enhances local recovery. The high energy pulsations of electrical energy are applied for shortened periods of time. See also disease, pelvic inflammatory.


Local elevation of temperature within tissues, produced by high-frequency current or other means.

diathermy (di´əthur´mē),

n a generalized rise in tissue temperature produced by a high-frequency alternating current between two electrodes. The temperature rise is produced without causing tissue damage.


the use of high-frequency electrical currents as a form of physical therapy and in surgical procedures.
Diathermy is used in physical therapy to deliver moderate heat directly to pathological lesions in the deeper tissues of the body. Surgically, the extreme heat that can be produced by diathermy may be used to destroy neoplasms, warts and infected tissues, and to cauterize blood vessels to prevent excessive bleeding. The technique is particularly valuable in neurosurgery and surgery of the eye. See also electrosurgery.

surgical diathermy
References in periodicals archive ?
Conclusion: The use of diathermy for midline laparotomy incision had significant advantage over scalpel in reducing pain on second post-operative day.
The results however fail to overwhelmingly favor one technique over the other as each method is with its pros and cons however ENT unit in our hospital favors monopolar diathermy because of its significantly less intraoperative blood loss at the cost of slightly increased operative time.
Submucous Diathermy (SMD) of the inferior turbinate was found very effective in relieving nasal obstruction in our patients, 76% is comparable to findings by Fradis et al, i.
Both suture ligation and coagulation diathermy for control of bleeders during the procedure by dissection method are equally effective.
Key Words: Diathermy, Electrosurgery, Surgical trainee
It was swiftly dealt with by the ODP padding the arm rest, which removed the risks of pressure sores, nerve damage and diathermy burns, rectifying the situation satisfactorily.
On day 2, progressive improvement was noticed in animal of the shortwave diathermy therapy.
It was postulated that the defect in the insulation had caused the diathermy current to short circuit via exposed metal at the instrument's apex into the surgeon, rather than passing through the tips of the instrument as intended.
In what they said is the first study of its kind, the researchers studied 295 consecutive bipolar diathermy tonsillectomies (BDT) and 305 consecutive partial intracapsular tonsillectomies (PIT) performed at the Stollery Children's Hospital in Edmonton between July 2002 and January 2007 (Intl.
She says she was later told she had suffered a burn from the diathermy pad which had caught fire as it was not being monitored while a nurse was changing a CD.
The purpose of this case study was to determine the therapeutic effect of Short Wave Diathermy (SWD) in the symptomatic management of chronic Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID) pain.