The utility of electrocautery for suture passage through bone: A biomechanical study

Academic Article


  • Electrosurgical devices are routinely employed during surgery. The use of a Bovie Electrosurgical Unit (ESU) to facilitate the passage of a suture needle through bone has not been studied in the literature. This study aimed to identify force reduction with the application of Bovie ESU to the suture needle through the bone. Peak and the average axial force required for a suture needle to penetrate cadaveric proximal humeri were measured using a custom setup. Twenty-four trials were conducted without electricity, and 72 trials were conducted with a Bovie ESU applying current. Needle size and Bovie ESU power settings were varied. t Tests and analysis of variance were used with p ≤ 0.05 denoting statistical significance. The application of electricity reduced the peak and average axial force needed for a needle to pierce bone, regardless of the Bovie ESU power setting (p < 0.001). The average peak force with the Bovie ESU was 65.7 N, compared with 126.0 N without (p < 0.001), a 47.9% reduction. The average axial force with the Bovie ESU was 38.2 N compared with 81.8 N without (p < 0.001), a 53.3% reduction. There was no significant difference in peak or average axial forces between power settings. At 30 and 90 W of power, larger needle size was associated with significantly lower peak (p = 0.001 and p < 0.001, respectively) and axial (p = 0.002 and p = 0.004, respectively) force. The Bovie ESU reduces the axial force required to pass a suture needle through bone. The use of this technique may allow for the avoidance of drilling for soft tissue repair. © 2019 Orthopaedic Research Society. Published by Wiley Periodicals, Inc. J Orthop Res 38:954-960, 2020.
  • Published In

    Digital Object Identifier (doi)

    Author List

  • Littlefield ZL; Lehtonen EJ; McKissack HM; Momaya AM; Brabston EW; Baez K; McGwin G; Ponce BA
  • Start Page

  • 954
  • End Page

  • 960
  • Volume

  • 38
  • Issue

  • 5