Curettage is the removal of a skin lesion with a sharp spoon-shaped knife called a curette. Curettage is usually performed for the removal of superficial skin cancers, such as a basal cell carcinoma or noninvasive squamous cell carcinoma in situ.
Cautery, also called electrosurgery, is the burning of the skin with an electric current to control bleeding and destroy any remaining cancerous tissue.
Curettage and cautery is most effective for the treatment of skin cancer when the cancerous lesion is small or new.
Curettage may be repeated several times to remove the tissue or it may be combined with other procedures, such as cryotherapy. Skin cancers may return at the site of treatment.
A local anesthetic is applied before the procedure to numb the skin.
The wound that results is covered with a dressing and heals normally with the formation of a scab. There are no stitches used. Healing may take 3 to 6 weeks, depending on the width and depth of the wound. It is important to keep the wound clean and dry while it heals.
Changes to the skin, such as discoloration, a scar, or indentation usually occurs after curettage and cautery. Because of the resulting skin changes, the procedure is limited to those areas where scarring is not a concern, such as on the shoulders or back.
In cosmetically important areas, such as the face, other procedures may be recommended, such Mohs surgery and/or topical medication (imiquimod).