We present a review of the current literature surrounding the use of radiofrequency energy for arthroscopic chondroplasty in the knee. This review article summarizes basic science, clinical efficacy, and recent advances in the understanding of radiofrequency energy use for the treatment of chondral lesions. Laboratory evidence of increased mechanical stability and decreased release of inflammatory mediators associated with the use of radiofrequency energy chondroplasty is described with clinical evidence of decreased pain and increased functional scores when compared with mechanical chondroplasty. We re-examine concerns about the immediate side effects of radiofrequency energy use, including damage to local structures, in light of new potentially contradictory results, as well as the progression of techniques and probe design. However, although reported complications are few, because the quality of clinical evidence about safety and efficacy remains low, we suggest cautious and judicious use of this technology until future research has clearly defined the long-term clinical outcomes and risks.
Copyright © 2011 Arthroscopy Association of North America. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.