Effect of applied voltage, duration and repetition frequency of RF pulses for pain relief on temperature spikes and electrical field: a computer modelling study

Int J Hyperthermia. 2018 Feb;34(1):112-121. doi: 10.1080/02656736.2017.1323122. Epub 2017 May 16.


Background: The thermal and electrical effects of pulsed radiofrequency (PRF) for pain relief can be controlled by modifying the characteristics of the RF pulses applied. Our goal was to evaluate the influence of such modifications on the thermal and electric performance in tissue.

Methods: A computational model was developed to compare the temperature and electric field time courses in tissue between a standard clinical protocol (45 V pulses, 20 ms duration, 2 Hz repetition frequency) and a new protocol (55 V pulses, 5 ms duration, 5 Hz repetition frequency) with a higher applied electric field but a smaller impact on temperature alterations in tissue. The effect of including a temperature controller was assessed. Complementarily, an agar-based experimental model was developed to validate the methodology employed in the computer modelling.

Results: The new protocol increased the electric field magnitude reached in the tissue by around +20%, without increasing the temperature. The temperature controller was found to be the fundamental factor in avoiding thermal damage to the tissue and reduced the total number of pulses delivered by around 67%. The experimental results matched moderately well with those obtained from a computer model built especially to mimic the experimental conditions.

Conclusions: For the same delivered energy, the new protocol significantly increases the magnitude of the applied electric field, which may be the reason why it is clinically more effective in achieving pain relief.

Keywords: Computational model; electroporation; pain relief; pulsed radiofrequency; temperature spike.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Computer Simulation
  • Humans
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Pain / radiotherapy*
  • Radiofrequency Therapy*
  • Temperature