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What is Infrared Coagulation for Hemorrhoids?

Infrared coagulation (IRC) is a nonsurgical outpatient procedure for the treatment of internal hemorrhoids. Hemorrhoids are swollen veins in the rectal area. Internal hemorrhoids develop inside the anus. The IRC procedure utilizes heat from infrared light to coagulate (clot) the veins and cut off blood supply to the hemorrhoid, causing the hemorrhoid to shrink and recede.

Indications for Infrared Coagulation for Hemorrhoids

Your doctor may recommend an infrared coagulation procedure for hemorrhoids if you have:

  • Bleeding internal hemorrhoids
  • Prolapsed internal hemorrhoids that have fallen outside the anal opening
  • Pain, inflammation, irritation, and discomfort from internal hemorrhoids
  • Failed other conservative treatment approaches such as lifestyle changes and minimally invasive or non-invasive treatments

Preparation for Infrared Coagulation for Hemorrhoids

In general, preparation for infrared coagulation for hemorrhoids will involve the following:

  • A review of your medical history and a physical examination is performed to check for any medical issues that need to be addressed prior to surgery.
  • You may need to undergo routine laboratory and diagnostic tests such as blood work and imaging to help detect any abnormalities that could compromise the safety of the procedure.
  • You should disclose information about your previous and current illnesses, possible allergic reactions, current medications and supplements, smoking history, etc.
  • Blood thinners or anticoagulant medications, such as aspirin will need to be stopped a few days prior to the procedure as these medications increase the risk of bleeding.
  • Your physician may ask you to take an over-the-counter enema or laxative to empty your bowel before the procedure. No special dietary restrictions are required prior to the procedure
  • A signed informed consent form is required from you after the procedure has been explained in detail.

Procedure for Infrared Coagulation for Hemorrhoids

An infrared coagulation procedure is a simple outpatient procedure that is performed in a clinic or office setting and takes about 5 to 10 minutes. During the procedure, you will lie on your side with your knees bent. Your physician will likely apply a numbing gel in and around the anus. Your physician will then insert a small light probe into your anal canal or rectum, positioning it above the hemorrhoidal tissue. Your physician will use the probe to produce an intense beam of infrared light. You may feel warmth in the rectal/anal area as the infrared light is applied. The heat created by the infrared light cuts off the blood supply to the internal hemorrhoids, which then causes coagulation of the veins and shrinkage of the hemorrhoids.

Post-Procedure Care and Recovery

After the procedure, you will be transferred to the recovery room for observation. As it is an outpatient (same day) procedure, you will be discharged home the same day after a few hours of observation. You may experience pain and discomfort in the rectal area for up to 10 days after the procedure. Medications are provided as needed to address these. You may resume your normal activities the same day but avoid strenuous exercises or heavy lifting for a few days following the procedure. To prevent the recurrence of hemorrhoids, your physician will provide you with dietary and lifestyle recommendations, such as:

  • Drinking plenty of water every day to keep your stools soft
  • Avoiding straining or holding your breath while trying to pass stool as this increases pressure on veins in the rectum
  • Eating high-fiber foods such as fruits and vegetables to soften your stools, which helps prevent straining during a bowel movement, which is sometimes responsible for hemorrhoids
  • Avoiding long periods of prolonged sitting, which can increase pressure on veins in the rectum
  • Staying physically active with regular exercises to help lose excess weight and prevent constipation that may be contributing to your hemorrhoids

Risks and Complications

Infrared coagulation for hemorrhoids is a very safe procedure; however, some risks and complications may occur, such as:

  • Bleeding
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Swelling
  • Difficulty urinating
  • Irritation
  • American Board of Internal Medicine
  • American Medical Association
  • American College of Gastroenterology
  • Texas Medical Association
  • Memorial Hermann Foundation
  • HCA Healthcare
  • Methodist Church
  • Howard University College of Medicine
  • American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
  • UT Health San Antonio