COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE
META-ANALYSIS
REVIEW
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Cutting electrocautery versus scalpel for surgical incisions: a systematic review and meta-analysis.

BACKGROUND: Although cutting electrocautery can be superior to the scalpel in reducing blood loss and incisional time, several reports associated electrocautery with higher rates of wound infection, impaired healing, and worse cosmesis. We performed this systematic review and meta-analysis to compare cutting electrocautery versus scalpel for surgical incisions.

MATERIALS AND METHODS: We conducted a computerized literature search of five electronic databases and included all published original studies comparing cutting electrocautery and scalpel surgical incisions. Relevant data were extracted from eligible studies and pooled as odds ratios (ORs) or standardized mean difference (SMD) values in a meta-analysis model, using RevMan and Comprehensive Meta-analysis software.

RESULTS: Forty-one studies (36 randomized trials, four observational, and one quasirandom study) were included in the pooled analysis (6422 participants). Compared with the scalpel incision, cutting electrocautery resulted in significantly less blood loss (SMD = -1.16, 95% CI [-1.60 to -0.72]), shorter incisional (SMD = -0.63, 95% CI [-0.96 to -0.29]) and operative times (SMD = -0.59, 95% CI [-1.12 to -0.05]), and lower pain scores (SMD = -0.91, 95% CI [-1.27 to -0.55]) with no significant differences in terms of wound infection rates (OR = 0.92, 95% CI [0.74-1.15]) or overall subjective scar score (SMD = -0.49, 95% CI [-1.72 to 0.75]).

CONCLUSIONS: Surgical incision using electrocautery can be quicker with less blood loss and postoperative pain scores than the scalpel incision. No statistically significant difference was found between both techniques in terms of postoperative wound complications, hospital stay duration, and wound cosmetic characteristics. Therefore, we recommend routine use of cutting electrocautery for surgical incisions.

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