The generation of heat in body tissues by means of an electric current.

Diathermy is one form of cautery (the use of an agent to burn or destroy tissue). The heat produced in tissues by the passage of the current may be sufficient to destroy them. This technique is used in surgery to seal blood vessels as they are cut and in the destruction of certain tumors. Short-wave diathermy uses current of a much higher frequency than that used in cauterization. It produces insufficient heat to destroy tissue but enough to dilate blood vessels and relax muscles. It is used frequently to relieve the pain and stiffness of rheumatic conditions of joints or muscles. Commonly the heat treatment is applied for about thirty minutes, several times a week.

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