Evaluation Background: Capacitive Electrosurgical Return Electrodes

May 14, 2020 | Evaluations & Guidance


Here's background for our Evaluations of capacitive electrosurgical return electrodes, outlining the key considerations for making wise purchasing decisions. Learn how the technology is used, what factors we test for, and more. Also review our latest product ratings.

Monopolar electrosurgery involves the generation of a circuit through a patient's body. When a surgeon activates an electrosurgical unit (ESU), it generates a high-frequency current. This current enters a patient at the point of application of an active electrode at the operative site, passes through the patient, then leaves the patient and returns to the generator via an electrode with a much larger surface area. This return electrode may disperse the current via either a conductive or capacitive function; in this article, we are describing a capacitive electrode. 1

Capacitive electrosurgical return electrodes are large, reusable pads that are placed beneath the patient. 2In electrosurgery, they disperse monopolar radio-frequency (RF) current from a patient's target tissues back to one ESU—or two, if a dual-corded capacitive electrode is in use.

To be considered in this clinical category, a product typically:

  1. Consists of a conductive plate or mesh encased in insulating materials. See Principles of Operation for a description of how this setup forms a capacitive circuit with a patient and how it safely returns electrosurgical current from the patient to the ESU while the desired surgical effect is created at the surgical site.

  2. Does not rely on direct contact with, or...

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