In the operating room, cautery refers to the use of heat to seal or cut tissue. The two main types of cautery are bipolar and unipolar.
Bipolar cautery uses two electrodes that are positioned close to the tissue and deliver an electrical current to generate heat. The electrical current is limited to the tissue between the two electrodes, reducing the risk of injury to surrounding tissue. Bipolar cautery is often used in delicate procedures where precise control is needed, such as in microsurgery.
Unipolar cautery uses a single electrode that is positioned near the tissue and delivers an electrical current to generate heat. The electrical current flows from the electrode through the tissue and back to the generator, creating a circuit. Unipolar cautery is often used for cutting and coagulating tissue, and for hemostasis (stopping bleeding). Because the electrical current can flow through a larger area of tissue, unipolar cautery has a greater risk of injury to surrounding tissue compared to bipolar cautery.
In summary, the main difference between bipolar and unipolar cautery is the number of electrodes and the electrical circuit they create. Bipolar cautery is typically used for delicate procedures, while unipolar cautery is often used for cutting and coagulating tissue.