Research Article| Volume 14, ISSUE 6, P585-591, September 1998

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Radiofrequency (electrosurgical) ablation of articular cartilage: a study in sheep

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      The objective of this study was to examine the effect of a bipolar ablation probe on experimentally roughened articular cartilage and compare it with the traditional mechanical shaving technique using the knee joint of sheep. Twenty-eight skeletally mature ewes were divided randomly into two groups: one group was treated with a rotating shaving device and another group was treated using the bipolar ablation probe (Bipolar Arthroscopic Probe; Electroscope, Inc, Boulder, CO). Animals were killed at 0, 6, 12, and 24 weeks, and histological sections of the experimental limbs were compared with sections of the opposite limb using a modified Mankin scale. The following variables were used to determine scores: surface (0-6), cells (0-4), hypocellularity (0-3), matrix staining (transitional zone [0-4], radiate zone [0-4], and focal empty lacunae or hypereosinophilic cells (0-3). Differences in scores for all response variables were calculated as treated limb minus sham limb. Response variables were formed: score >0 recoded as 1 (favorable response treated better than sham), score of 0 recoded as 2 (neutral response no differences), and score <0 recoded as 3 (unfavorable response treated worse than sham). Bipolar ablative probe-treated limbs had 14.29% favorable responses and 35.71% favorable or neutral responses, whereas shave-treated limbs had 0% favorable and only 7.14% favorable or neutral responses. For all variables, bipolar ablative probe-treated limbs had more favorable responses. The less severe histological change in the bipolar ablative probe-treated joints compared with the shave-treated joints suggests that bipolar ablation of articular cartilage may be a better treatment for chondromalacia than the usual shaving methods of debridement. Further, there were no pathological changes in the subchondral bone.
      Arthroscopy 1998 Sep;14(6):585-91
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