Electrosurgical Cables: A Primer

Electrosurgical Cables: A Primer

27 Oct 20204 min readMike Anderson
electrosurgical cable electrosurgical cable

In our post about electrosurgical systems, we discussed the different components necessary to make an electrosurgical unit function.

One of those components was the “cable.”

Electrosurgical cables are critical to an electrosurgical system because they connect the handpiece, electrode, return electrode, and foot pedal to the generator.

In this post, we’ll discuss the different types of electrosurgical cables how they come together to make the electrosurgical system work like it should.

Recommended: Read more about how ATL can help with your electrosurgical device.

Why are electrosurgical cables important to the electrosurgical system?

When most people think about electrosurgery, the handpiece (“pen/pencil”) is often the image that comes to mind.

Though the handpiece is an important part of the electrosurgical system, it is not the only thing needed for a successful electrosurgery operation.

The cables that enable power and information to flow between the generator and the other ancillary components are an important—often overlooked—part of the electrosurgical system for two big reasons: they help mitigate the risk of certain surgical errors and they help complete the electrosurgical circuit.

Mitigating the Risk of Certain Surgical Errors

Though it may not appear this way at first glance, the cable that connects the generator to the handpiece is designed to help mitigate the risk of potential surgical errors.

This is done by keying the connector of the cable so that it can only be plugged into a specific receptacle on the generator.

For example…

The connector for a bipolar electrode is keyed differently than the connector for a monopolar electrode.

If a physician had the ability to plug a monopolar device into a bipolar receptacle, or vice versa, it could cause a variety of problems for the patient (including severe electrical burns).

Keying the connectors of the two devices differently helps mitigate this risk by preventing the wrong device(s) from being connected during a surgery.

Completing the Electrosurgical Circuit

Electrosurgical cables are also necessary to complete the “circuit” of an electrosurgical system.

As you may recall from our blog post detailing the differences between monopolar and bipolar electrosurgery, electrosurgery is performed using an alternating current.

An alternating current must have a complete electrical circuit to work correctly.

In monopolar surgery, the current flows—via a cable—from the generator to the handpiece.

The current then flows through the body to the return electrode where it is sent back—via cable—to the generator.

Without the necessary cables, the electrosurgical circuit can’t be closed.

Where are reusable electrosurgical cables and disposable electrosurgical cables used?

One of the primary questions we receive regarding electrosurgical cables is: should I use a reusable or disposable cable for my electrosurgical device?

Like many questions in the device development field, the answer is: it depends.

The different components within the electrosurgical system typically have different requirements.

For example…

All electrosurgical generators are assumed to be reusable, while most foot pedals and only some handpieces and dispersive pads are meant to be reused.

As many handpieces and dispersive pads have the cable directly connected, whether a cable must be reusable depends on whether the handpiece or dispersive pad itself is reused.

If the electrosurgical cable is reusable, it must be designed to withstand a given number of cleanings and/or sterilization cycles—disposable cables that are reprocessed can introduce many risks into the operating room.

Overengineering a disposable cable, on the other hand, can add unnecessary costs and lead time to the end product.

Designing an electrosurgical cable requires an understanding of ANSI, AAMI, and IEC requirements, as well as knowledge of ergonomics, electromechanics, and biomaterials.

For this reason, we recommend working with an expert to design and develop your electrosurgical cable.

Additional resources.

Electrosurgical cables tend to be the unsung heroes of the electrosurgical system.

They connect every other piece of the system together, enabling it to function properly at critical times.

To learn more about cable design, download our free ebook.