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Safety Issue in Electrotherapy

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One of the key questions that we are asked on a regular basis is what are the safety issues associated with Electrotherapy?  Now electrotherapy covers IFC (Interferential therapy), TENS Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation), and NMS (Neuro Muscle Stimulation).

Lead Wires

Lead wires on any electrotherapy device will degrade naturally with time which is why many manufactures recommend replacing the lead wires on these devices every six months.  Even with proper care and maintenance the material inside these lead wires does wear over time.  Damage to the lead wires can occur by bending the lead wires, running over the lead wires with a cart (popular with IFC units) and wrapping the leads around a unit (popular with TENS, EMS and NMS units); all of these methods deteriorates the connections inside the leads which could fail as an open (no connection to the patient) or intermittently as a shocking sensation to a patient.

After a treatment never tightly wrap the lead wires around anything always loose always loosely wrap them to prevent kinking in the lead wire.  By loosely wrapping the lead wires it will help extend the life of your lead wires, and will prevent them from failing prematurely.

Never use a lead wire if the lead wires strain reliefs are damaged or missing, the lead wires are more than 6 months old, or if the lead wire has any exposed copper.  In all of these cases if any damage is noted on the lead wire, it is safeties to replace the lead wire to avoid injury to the patient or end user.

Self-Adhesive Electrodes

Self-Adhesive electrodes are by far the most popular electrodes that we see in industry.  Self-Adhesive electrodes tend to be popular as they tend to be cheaper than their counter parts which are carbon electrodes.  The main problem that TRH Services sees with Self-Adhesive electrodes is that they tend to be over used which can result in patient injury or discomfort. Typically speaking for most Self-Adhesive can be used for multiple treatments however most manufactures recommend that they are replaced every 15 treatments.  By exceeding the number of treatments used with Self-Adhesive electrodes they tend to wear out which can cause patient discomfort or injury.  Most manufacture’s recommend using their Self-Adhesive electrodes with their units as they are designed to work best with their units.  Typically some of the off label electrodes can fail prematurely if they were not purchased from a reputable dealer.  All of the Self-Adhesive electrodes that we sell are licensed by Health Canada and can be used with any EMS, IFC, NMS, or TENS unit on the market today. Dyantronics recommend that for maximum performance and to increase the safety to complete the following:

  • Make sure the electrode is adhering and making contact with the skin and across the entire electrode
  • Thoroughly clean the skin area to be treated before placing the electrode
  • Always store the self-adhesive electrodes in their original sealed packaging
  • Never use ECG, or EMG on electrotherapy units
  • Never use self-adhesive electrodes more than 15 times
  • The simultaneous use of ice packs or hot pack with therapy is not recommended.

By following all of these recommendations you can successfully use Self-Adhesive electrodes while keeping your patient safe and providing them the treatment that they require.

Carbon Electrodes

Carbon electrodes are not nearly as popular as self-adhesive electrodes however the benefit to them is that they tend to last a lot longer.  It is important that the carbon electrodes will last longer but it does not mean that they will last forever as they will eventually degrade over time. As a general rule of thumb it is recommend that carbon electrodes be replaced every six month when being used on a regular basses. Dynatronics recommend the following guide lines for using carbon electrodes:

  • Ensure that the electrode is well moistened throughout the entire treatment using a mineral water solution
  • Ensure that as you are increasing the intensity to higher levers during setup, if your patient does not feel anything, STOP and re-moisten the electrodes and try again. If the problem continues replace the electrodes.
  • Always clean the electrodes using a mild soap and a small brush, so clinicians chose to sterilize the electrodes in an autoclave which is acceptable as well.

The TRH Value

The added value of choosing TRH Services to complete maintenance on your IFC (Interferential therapy), TENS Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation), EMS (Electrical Muscle Stimulation), and NMS (Neuro Muscle Stimulation) units is that we test any electrodes that are present at the time of the service call.  We complete our onsite service of these devices across South-Western Ontario (London, Toronto, Kitchener, Waterloo, Cambridge, Guelph, Hamilton, etc.).




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