Purpose: To assess by means of computer simulations whether the heat sink effect inside a large vessel (portal vein) could protect the vessel wall from thermal damage close to an internally cooled electrode during radiofrequency (RF)-assisted resection.
Methods: First,in vivo experiments were conducted to validate the computational model by comparing the experimental and computational thermal lesion shapes created around the vessels. Computer simulations were then carried out to study the effect of different factors such as device-tissue contact, vessel position, and vessel-device distance on temperature distributions and thermal lesion shapes near a large vessel, specifically the portal vein.
Results: The geometries of thermal lesions around the vessels in the in vivo experiments were in agreement with the computer results. The thermal lesion shape created around the portal vein was significantly modified by the heat sink effect in all the cases considered. Thermal damage to the portal vein wall was inversely related to the vessel-device distance. It was also more pronounced when the device-tissue contact surface was reduced or when the vessel was parallel to the device or perpendicular to its distal end (blade zone), the vessel wall being damaged at distances less than 4.25 mm.
Conclusions: The computational findings suggest that the heat sink effect could protect the portal vein wall for distances equal to or greater than 5 mm, regardless of its position and distance with respect to the RF-based device.