Electrocautery removes genital warts on the penis, vulva, or around the anus by burning them with a low-voltage electrified probe.
Electrocautery is usually done in a doctor's office or a clinic. The injection of a numbing medicine (local anesthetic) is usually used for pain control. Medicine that causes unconsciousness (general anesthetic) may be used depending on the number of warts to be removed or destroyed.
What To Expect After Surgery
The recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed.
- After surgery you may have some pain, swelling, and redness.
- Healing usually occurs within 2 to 4 weeks.
- Healing time may be prolonged if a large area of tissue is burned.
- Scarring may occur.
Why It Is Done
Electrocautery removes warts with little blood loss. It usually is used for small areas of warts.
How Well It Works
In one study, electrocautery was effective for about 8 out of 10 people in removing warts and stopping them from coming back 6 months after treatment. Warts are less likely to return after electrocautery than after medicine treatment.footnote 1
The removal of genital warts does not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed.
Risks of electrocautery are:
- Bleeding. Blood loss is usually minimal, because the electrocautery seals blood vessels as it removes warts.
- Infection. Antibiotics may be given at the time of the procedure to reduce the risk of infection.
- Pain. Medicine may be needed for several days after the electrocautery procedure.
What To Think About
Electrocautery for external genital warts can be safely used during pregnancy.
Treating genital warts does not cure infection with human papillomavirus (HPV), the virus that causes genital warts. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Latex condoms may help reduce the risk of HPV infection, but they do not protect the entire genital area against skin-to-skin contact.
The benefits and effectiveness of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost. Discuss this with your health professional.
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology
Kevin C. Kiley, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Current as ofNovember 27, 2017
Current as of: November 27, 2017
Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review: Sarah A. Marshall, MD - Family Medicine & Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine & Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine & Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology, Reproductive Endocrinology & Kevin C. Kiley, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology