What is Electrodessication and Curettage (ED&C)?

Electrodessication and curettage is a common procedure most often used to treat basal cell carcinomas and some squamous cell carcinomas. Skin cancer cells are scraped away using a special instrument called a curette and an electric current delivered via a metal tip is used to locally burn away remaining skin cancer cells.

What to let your doctor know:

Tell your provider what medications you take, if you have problems with bleeding, and if you have any allergies to medications. Let your doctor know if you have any implanted electrical devices such as a heart pacer or defibrillator. If you normally take antibiotics prior to procedures, tell your doctor.

Risks of the procedure:

The risks and benefits of the procedure will be explained prior to the procedure. Ask any questions that you have at any time. Common risks of the procedure include bleeding, infection, scar, numbness, pain, or incomplete removal or recurrence of the skin cancer.

What to expect:

Your doctor will first ask for your consent, or permission, to perform the procedure. The skin will be cleansed and then numbed with an anesthetic such as lidocaine with a small needle. You may feel a stinging or burning sensation for about 15 to 30 seconds. After this injection, you may feel pressure, but should not feel any pain. If your skin cancer was not previously biopsied, it may be partially removed with a sharp blade for biopsy at this time. The remaining skin cancer is scraped with a special instrument with an oval tip called a curette. Next, electrodessication is performed. In electrodessication, an electric current is applied via a tiny metal tip. You may smell smoke at this point. Your doctor will repeat this process of scraping and burning three times to ensure that deeper areas of the skin cancer are removed. Any time the skin is damaged or treated, a scar is formed. The scar from this procedure likely will be larger than the original size of the skin cancer. This extra “margin” around the skin cancer helps ensure that no remaining skin cancer is left.

What to do at home:

Wash the area with mild soap and water 24 to 48 hours after the procedure. Apply petroleum jelly over the wound each day after washing and then cover the area with a bandage until the area is healed. Do not use hydrogen peroxide on wounds, it slows healing. An antibiotic ointment is usually not needed and can actually cause an allergic skin reaction.

When to call your doctor:

If you develop redness, tenderness, pus, excessive pain, warmth, fever, chills, bleeding, or any other concerning symptoms, call your doctor immediately. Also call your doctor if you suspect that the cancer has returned. This may occur months or even years later.