This study compares the histologic effects of scalpel, CO2 laser, electrosurgery, and constant-voltage electrosurgery incisions on the mucosal tissue of swine. Tissue studies comparing the CO2 laser with the scalpel and electrosurgery have been done. However, a gross and histologic comparison of the effects of all three techniques an oral mucosal tissue has not been reported. A swine model of both tongue and buccal mucosa was used to compare the scalpel, CO2 laser, electrosurgery unit, and constant-voltage electrosurgery unit in an effort to assess their value in oral surgery. Tissue samples of tongue and buccal mucosal incisions and excisions were histologically examined at 0, 3, 7, 14, 28, and 42 days after surgery to evaluate tissue damage and wound healing properties induced by the four instruments. The instruments were also evaluated for performance and ease of use. On subjective evaluation of ease of use, constant-voltage electrosurgery scored highest (p < 0.05) on a scale of 0 to 4, followed by the CO2 laser. Speed of incisions and excisions, measured in seconds, was fastest with the scalpel (p < 0.001) and electrosurgery unit (p < 0.05). The amount of bleeding, as evaluated on a scale of 0 to 4, was least for electrosurgery (p < 0.001) and CO2 laser (p < 0.001). Histologic damage, as expected, was least with a scalpel. The extent of epithelial damage lateral to the wound edge and the extent of collagen denaturation were the lowest with the scalpel (p < 0.001), followed by constant-voltage electrosurgery. The wounds created by all four instruments displayed intact epithelium by 4 weeks, and granulation tissue peaked at 4 weeks with all methods except constant- voltage electrosurgery, where granulation tissue was still prevalent at week 6. Constant-voltage electrosurgery and the CO2 laser provided the best combination of ease of use, hemostasis, and lack of tissue injury among the instruments compared. Incisions and excisions made with constant-voltage electrosurgery required less time than those made with the laser, but constant-voltage electrosurgery wounds also had significantly more granulation tissue in later weeks of the study, suggesting that wound healing may be delayed.
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