The purpose of this in vivo study was to analyze the short-term tissue response of joint capsule to monopolar radiofrequency energy and to compare the effects of five power settings at 65 degrees C on heat distribution in joint capsule. In 12 mature Hampshire sheep, the medial and lateral aspects of both stifles were treated with monopolar radiofrequency energy under arthroscopic control in a single uniform pass to the synovial surface. The radiofrequency generator power settings were 0, 10, 15, 20, 25, and 30 watts (N = 8/group). The electrode tip temperature was 65 degrees C. Histologic analysis at 7 days after surgery revealed thermal damage of capsule at all radiofrequency power settings. The lesion's cross-sectional area, depth, vascularity, and inflammation were commensurate with radiofrequency power. Tissue damage was indicated by variable inflammatory cell infiltration, fusion of collagen, pyknosis of fibroblasts, myonecrosis, and vascular thrombosis, whereas synovial hyperplasia, fibroblast proliferation, and rowing of sarcolemmal nuclei demonstrated regenerative processes. This study revealed that radiofrequency power settings and heat loss through lavage solution play a significant role in heat distribution and morphologic alterations in joint capsule after arthroscopic application of monopolar radiofrequency energy.