The influence of radio frequency ablation on intra-articular fluid temperature in the ankle joint - A cadaver study

Philipp Ahrens, Dirk Mueller, Sebastian Siebenlist, Andreas Lenich, Ulrich Stoeckle, Gunther H. Sandmann

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Radio frequency ablation devices have found a widespread application in arthroscopic surgery. However, recent publications report about elevated temperatures, which may cause damage to the capsular tissue and especially to chondrocytes. The purpose of this study was the investigation of the maximum temperatures that occur in the ankle joint with the use of a commercially available radio frequency ablation device. Methods: Six formalin-fixed cadaver ankle specimens were used for this study. The radio frequency device was applied for 120 s to remove tissue. Intra-articular temperatures were logged every second for 120 s at a distance of 3, 5 and 10 mm from the tip of the radio frequency device. The irrigation fluid flow was controlled by setting the inflow pressure to 10 mmHg, 25 mmHg, 50 mmHg and 100 mmHg, respectively. The controller unit voltage setting was set to 1, 5 and 9. Results: Maximum temperatures exceeding 50 °C/122 °F were observed for all combinations of parameters, except for those with a pressure of 100 mmHg pressure. The main critical variable is the pressure setting, which is highly significant. The controller unit voltage setting showed no effect on the temperature measurements. The highest temperature was 102.7 °C/215.6 °F measured for an irrigation flow of 10 mmHg. The shortest time span to exceed 50 °C/122 °F was 3 s. Conclusion: In order to avoid temperatures exceeding 50 °C/122 °F in the use of radio frequency devices in arthroscopic surgeries of the ankle joint, it is recommended to use a high irrigation flow by setting the pressure difference across the ankle joint as high as feasible. Even short intervals of a low irrigation flow may lead to critical temperatures above 50 °C/122 °F. Level of Evidence: Level II, diagnostic study.

Original languageEnglish
Article number413
JournalBMC Musculoskeletal Disorders
Issue number1
StatePublished - 24 Nov 2018
Externally publishedYes


  • Ablation
  • Ankle joint
  • Chondrocytes
  • Radio frequency
  • Thermal damage


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