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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(named after L. Galvani), the therapeutic use of direct current of low intensity and voltage. The first attempts to use such a current for therapy were made at the beginning of the 19th century, but the systematic study of the physiological and therapeutic effects began in the second half of the century. Direct current of about 30 milliamperes (mA) and about 100 volts causes a redistribution of ions in tissues—that is, a change in their concentration, which is accompanied by complex physicochemical processes that alter the permeability of the cell membranes, enzyme activity, and metabolic rate.

Depending on the technique and dosage, galvanization raises or lowers tissue function, relieves pain, improves the peripheral blood circulation, and restores injured tissues, including nerves. By stimulating many nerve endings, the current causes a local and a more or less pronounced general reaction, and it stimulates the regulatory function of the nervous system. The current is supplied by a special apparatus. (At one time it was obtained from galvanic cells and batteries.) Current is usually supplied to the patient along wires through plate electrodes. A hydrophilic pad (flannel or special plastic) moistened with water is placed between the metal plate and the patient’s body to prevent burns from the electrolytic products. Water in small receptacles can also be placed between the metal electrode and the skin. After the electrodes are secured, the current is turned on and gradually increased to the desired magnitude. The intensity of the effect is determined by the density of the current (amount of mA/cm2 of the pad) and duration of the procedure. The procedure is carried out at a current density of 0.01 to 0.1 mA/cm2, depending on the purpose of the procedure, the size of the electrodes, and the age, condition, and feelings of the patient, who should not suffer pain or a burning sensation during the procedure. When the treatment is finished, the current is decreased as gradually as it was intensified, until it is turned off completely.

Galvanization is indicated for diseases and lesions of various divisions of the peripheral nervous system that are of infectious, toxic, or traumatic origin (radiculitis, plexitis, neuritis, and neuralgia at various locations). It is also used to treat the sequelae of diseases and lesions of the brain and spinal cord and the meninges, as well as neuroses, autonomic-vascular disturbances, and chronic inflammations of the joints (arthritis) that are of traumatic, rheumatic, or metabolic origin.


Anikin, M. M., and G. S. Varshaver. Osnovy fizioterapii, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1950.
Liventsev, N. M. Elektromeditsinskaia apparatura, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1964.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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