Histopomorphic Evaluation of Radiofrequency Mediated Débridement Chondroplasty

Kumkum Ganguly1, Ian D McRury2, Peter M Goodwin3, Roy E Morgan2, Wayne K Augé II*, 2, 4
1 B-Division, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA
2 NuOrtho Surgical, Inc., Fall River, Massachusetts, USA
3 Center for Integrated Nanotechnologies, Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, New Mexico, USA
4 Center for Orthopaedic and Sports Performance Research, Inc., Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA

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© Ganguly et al.; Licensee Bentham Open.

open-access license: This is an open access article licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial License ( which permits unrestricted, non-commercial use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the work is properly cited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Center for Orthopaedic and Sports Performance Research, Inc., 936 Vista Jemez Court, Santa Fe, NM 87505, USA; Tel: 505-490-0933; Fax: 505-992-0451; E-mail:


The use of radiofrequency devices has become widespread for surgical ablation procedures. When ablation devices have been deployed in treatment settings requiring tissue preservation like débridement chondroplasty, adoption has been limited due to the collateral damage caused by these devices in healthy tissue surrounding the treatment site. Ex vivo radiofrequency mediated débridement chondroplasty was performed on osteochondral specimens demonstrating surface fibrillation obtained from patients undergoing knee total joint replacement. Three radiofrequency systems designed to perform débridement chondroplasty were tested each demonstrating different energy delivery methods: monopolar ablation, bipolar ablation, and non-ablation energy. Treatment outcomes were compared with control specimens as to clinical endpoint and histopomorphic characteristics. Fibrillated cartilage was removed in all specimens; however, the residual tissue remaining at the treatment site displayed significantly different characteristics attributable to radiofrequency energy delivery method. Systems that delivered ablation-based energies caused tissue necrosis and collateral damage at the treatment site including corruption of cartilage Superficial and Transitional Zones; whereas, the non-ablation system created a smooth articular surface with Superficial Zone maintenance and without chondrocyte death or tissue necrosis. The mechanism of radiofrequency energy deposition upon tissues is particularly important in treatment settings requiring tissue preservation. Ablation-based device systems can cause a worsened state of articular cartilage from that of pre-treatment. Non-ablation energy can be successful in modifying/preconditioning tissue during débridement chondroplasty without causing collateral damage. Utilizing a non-ablation radiofrequency system provides the ability to perform successful débridement chondroplasty without causing additional articular cartilage tissue damage and may allow for other cartilage intervention success.

Keywords: Chondroplasty, necrosis, radiofrequency, tissue preservation.