The average cost of electrosurgical units was 12% higher at the end of last year compared with the year before, as providers sought out advanced systems with blood-vessel-sealing capabilities and special cutting modes.
Electrosurgical units, also known as ESUs, are used in both inpatient and outpatient settings to cut tissue. Most commonly, the devices use electrical current to vaporize tissue and control bleeding through coagulation. Surgeons use the instruments for everything from wart and spider-vein removal to more complex, internal surgeries.
Between October and December 2015, an ESU cost an average of $16,151, according to the Modern Healthcare/ECRI Institute Technology Price Index (TPI). The TPI provides monthly and annual data on pricing for 30 supply and capital items that hospitals and other provider organizations purchase, based on three-month rolling averages.
The recent average marked the first time that the index for ESUs surpassed $16,000, driven largely by the purchase of advanced systems. Sixty percent of ESUs purchased in 2015 were advanced units, compared to 55% the year before.
Advanced units have special functions that help physicians seal blood vessels, and allow them to use different kinds of energy, either ultrasonic or bipolar. Like a forceps, advanced bipolar ESU systems have two electrodes on the cutting device—one to deliver electrical current and the other to receive the used current—while monopolar systems use a single electrode for cutting, and require a patch-like electrode to be placed elsewhere on the patient's body to complete the electrical circuit, according to Julie Miller, a project engineer in the ECRI Institute's Health Devices group.
ESUs can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $30,000, with advanced units costing $16,000 to $30,000. The most basic units are found in physician offices, while advanced features are needed in the operating room, said Kevin Lee, a senior analyst for ECRI's SELECTplus capital procurement advisory service.
Major ESU manufacturers include ConMed Corp., Erbe, Medtronic and Olympus Corp.