How to Properly Cauterize Wounds

If, or when, you find yourself cut off from our modern daily comforts and safety, injuries are not only more likely to happen, but when they do you may have to treat them yourself, with no hope of making to an emergency room.  What should you do if you or someone you are with is bleeding heavily and pressure is not helping?  One option that has been working for thousands of years is cauterization.

What Is Cauterization?

According to “the medical practice or technique of cauterization (or cauterisation, or cautery) is the burning of part of a body to remove or close off a part of it, which destroys some tissue in an attempt to mitigate bleeding and damage, remove an undesired growth, or minimize other potential medical harm, such as infections when antibiotics are unavailable…”.  It’s pretty much like welding, but with human flesh.

When to Cauterize 

Since cauterizing is very extreme, it’s not the best option for minor cuts and scrapes.  Cauterization should only be used on a heavily bleeding wound, when pressure is not enough to stop the bleeding.  Cauterization itself can cause severe tissue damage, and should therefore not be one’s first choice for wound treatment.  Though who would really try this before putting some pressure on a wound?

How to Cauterize a Wound

Ideally one would have a metal tool that is similar in size and shape to the wound needing to be treated.  But in an emergency that is unlikely to be the case.  Heat whatever metal is available to the point where it just begins to have a dull red glow.  Apply it with moderate pressure to the wound while minimizing the amount of surrounding tissue that gets burned.  You do not want to apply it too lightly, as this will only cause further pain and will not stop the bleeding.  It is also not a good idea to hold it down too hard for too long, as this is likely to cause more damage.

If the wound is much larger than the tool that is available to you, you will have to heat the tool again, and apply it as many times as is needed until bleeding is stopped.  (While this is sure to be painful, take some comfort in knowing that third degree burns actually hurt less than burns that are less severe because they kill the nerves in the damaged area, so at least you’ll have that going for you).

After Cauterizing 

After the wound has been successfully cauterized and the bleeding has stopped, the wound will need to be kept clean.  A burn is a great environment for bacterial growth.  Keep the wound as immobile as possible to prevent the wound from tearing open again, and keep it clean.

This is probably not something that you are going to be able to practice prior to needing it given the nature of the wounds and the treatment itself.  That being said, people have been saving lives with this technique for thousands of years.  It is a simple concept that one would do good to familiarize themselves with in case the worst happens and the skills are needed.

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