Both mechanical shavers and radiofrequency-based devices are used to treat symptomatic partial thickness chondral lesions. Controversy exists as to which mode of treatment provides better outcomes. The purpose of this study was to compare clinical results after bipolar radiofrequency-based chondroplasty (RFC) to mechanical shaver debridement (MSD). Patients (n = 60) included in the study presented with knee pain associated with a medial meniscus tear and idiopathic ICRS grade III defect of the medial femoral condyle. Patients who had osteoarthritis, grade II or higher cartilage defects of the tibial joint surface, the lateral compartment, or the femoro-patellar joint, or had previously undergone surgery on the affected knee were excluded. Patients underwent partial meniscectomy; during the procedure, they were randomly assigned to receive bipolar RFC (Paragon, ArthroCare Corporation, Austin, TX) or MSD (Full radius resector LR 4.85 x 12.5 cm), Arthrex, Naples, FL). Postoperatively, the same physiotherapist provided instructions for a daily 2-h home training program consisting of isometric, isotonic, and leg lifting exercises; patients were provided the option of using crutches. Clinical outcomes were assessed using the Tegner score, visual analogue scale (VAS) score, and Knee and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score (KOOS) assessment, which consists of five principal domains including pain, symptoms, function in daily living (ADL), and knee related quality of life (QOL), where a score of 0 indicates extreme symptoms and 100 represents no symptoms. Age and time from injury onset did not differ significantly between the RFC and MSD groups (43 +/- 10 vs. 44 +/- 9 years, P = 0.732; 8 +/- 3 vs. 7 +/- 4 months, P = 0.279). No complications or adverse events were observed. Preoperatively, mean (+/-SD) scores for all KOOS principal domains were <20 and did not differ significantly (P > 0.05) between treatment groups. Postoperatively, the RFC patients returned to activity significantly earlier than MSD patients (17 +/- 7 vs. 22 +/- 6 days, P = 0.002). VAS pain scores at 6 h, 24 h, 6 weeks, and 1 year were significantly (P < 0.001) lower for the RFC group than for the MSD group (4 +/- 2, 2 +/- 0.5, 2 +/- 1, 2 +/- 1 vs. 8 +/- 1, 4 +/- 1, 4 +/- 1, 3 +/- 1, respectively). At 1 year, RFC patients had significantly better Tegner score (4.1 +/- 0.8 vs. 2.8 +/- 0.6, P < 0.001) and KOOS domain scores for pain, symptoms, ADL, QOL, respectively (81.1 +/- 8, vs. 59.4 +/- 12.8; 80.7 +/- 7.5 vs. 59.6 +/- 7.5; 81.5 +/- 6.5 vs. 60.1 +/- 6.9; 80 +/- 10 vs. 61.3 +/- 12.5; P < 0.001) than MSD patients. Significantly fewer RFC patients (2% vs 23%, p = 0.026) reported using NSAIDS for knee pain at 1 year. Patients undergoing radiofrequency-based chondroplasty for ICRS grade III medial femoral condyle chondral lesions in conjunction with partial meniscectomy had significantly better clinical outcomes through 1 year than patients with similar pathology receiving chondral debridement using the mechanical shaver.