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Vet Comp Orthop Traumatol. 2008;21(1):41-8. doi: 10.3415/VCOT-07-01-0004.

Comparison of radiofrequency treatment and mechanical debridement of fibrillated cartilage in an equine model.

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  • 1Fairfield Equine Associates, Newtown, Connecticut, USA.



To compare a radiofrequency energy (RFE) prototype probe to mechanical debridement (MD) and a commercially available RFE system used for chondroplasty in the treatment of an experimentally created partial thickness cartilage lesion in horses. The study design was experimental, randomized complete block, n=8, using fifteen mature ponies.


Grade 2 to 3 cartilage lesions were prepared in both patellae. After 10 months duration, the injuries were used to study the effects of MD, a commercially available bipolar RFE device (CoVac 50; ArthroCare Corporation) and a prototype monopolar RFE device (Smith & Nephew Endoscopy). Six months after treatment the patellae were examined for chondrocyte viability and cartilage structure.


Mean depth of cell death was significantly different among groups (controls, MD <prototype<CoVac 50) (P<0.05). Total histologic scores did not demonstrate any significant differences among the controls, MD and prototype RFE groups, which were all better than the CoVac 50 scores (P<0.05). There was a trend for the prototype RFE probe treated regions to have better surface structural characteristics than MD (P=0.11). Cartilage thickness was greater for the prototype RFE group than all other groups, and was the thinnest for the CoVac 50 group (P<0.05).


When thermal chondroplasty is performed with a power-controlled prototype RFE probe, there is a better surface smoothing effect compared to MD, which causes less chondrocyte death and has the potential to maintain thicker cartilage compared to the commercially available RFE system.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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