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Radiofrequency
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Radiofrequency

The most common surgical procedure carried out in patients with injuries to their joint (‘articular’) cartilage is arthroscopic chondroplasty or ‘removal of the diseased fragments’, otherwise known as cleaning, debridement, or ‘ablation’.

These pieces can cause damage and inflammation to the joint, resulting in symptoms of pain, ‘catching’ of the joint during movement, and swelling. Radiofrequency is a simple, safe and reliable method of treating articular cartilage damage in the joint.

Radiofrequency is a more refined technique than previously used approaches for removing diseased articular cartilage fragments from a damaged joint.

Intended audience

This article is intended for anyone suffering from damage to their articular cartilage and their families who would like to find out about radiofrequency treatment, as well as anyone interested in cartilage problems.

What is Radiofrequency?

The traditional method employed to perform a chondroplasty was to use a motorised shaver to help remove the fragments of diseased cartilage from the joint and contour the edges of the remaining surface. Because the shaver is a metal blade operating at high speed, there was some associated damage to healthy cells due to both the mechanical effects of the shaver and the production of heat, which was inevitable with this kind of device.

Radiofrequency is a kind of energy that can create a ‘plasma layer’ at the tip of a device. This allows the highly focused removal of unhealthy or diseased tissue at a molecular level, with very little heat produced in surrounding, healthy tissues. Consequently, fragments of diseased cartilage can be safely removed. The by-products of radiofrequency include nitrogen, water and carbon dioxide, which are usually removed from the joint with a suction device.

Radiofrequency devices came into the market in the 1990s to help surgeons maximise the removal of damaged cartilage and minimise the collateral damage to surrounding healthy cartilage. However, the energy profile and the effects on cartilage with the different devices were initially not well understood, which caused some early complications with this technique. Consequently, the energy profile of each radiofrequency device needs to be fully understood by the surgeon to achieve the desired result.

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Radiofrequency

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