Radiofrequency energy in the arthroscopic treatment of knee chondral lesions: a systematic review

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Cartilage debridement is one of the recommended procedures for the management of chondral defects. Radiofrequency probes allow to debride the cartilage, but may induce subchondral bone necrosis.

Sources of data

Medline, Cochrane and Google Scholar were searched to identify studies on arthroscopic debridement of the articular cartilage of the knee using radiofrequency chondroplasty. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed using the Coleman methodology score (CMS).

Areas of agreement

Monopolar and bipolar radiofrequency devices provide significantly better clinical outcomes, especially for patients with high-grade chondral lesions, compared with mechanical shaver only. Despite the original concerns regarding subchondral bone necrosis, low complication rates are reported.

Areas of controversy

Heterogeneity in terms of type of device does not allow sound comparison of the published results. There is lack of evidence on the long-term effects of radiofrequency chondroplasty.

Growing points

Study methodology should be improved: the average Coleman methodology score was 56.2 out of 100.


More comparative, well-designed and larger cohort trials are needed to ascertain whether radiofrequency chondroplasty offers long-term benefits over other simpler and more economical alternatives.

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