Radio waves dissolve tissue

A new surgical device developed by US-based ArthroCare can remove meniscal tears, an often debilitating knee injury.

Called the RazorVac ArthroWand, the thin, tube-shaped bipolar radio frequency transmitter is designed to remove torn knee joint tissue by dissolving the problem areas in a field of ionized gas about the width of a human hair.

The menisci act as the knee’s natural shock absorber and help prevent cartilage wear while also providing joint lubrication and joint stability. Meniscus tears occur when the knee is twisted or rotated while bearing weight.

While the meniscus surgery device is new, it is based on ArthroCare’s existing Coblation (for cool ablation) Multi-Electrode Technology that was first cleared by the US Food and Drug Administration in 1995.

Most radiofrequency electrosurgical techniques use a heat driven process to ablate or cut tissue. High amounts of energy are discharged into tissue causing tissue structures to explode at high temperatures. During this process, surrounding tissue can be inadvertently charred or burned.

The Coblation process, in contrast, is a controlled, non-heat driven process. With Coblation technology, radiofrequency energy is applied to a conductive medium (usually saline), causing a highly focused plasma field to form around the energised electrodes. The plasma field is comprised of highly ionised particles. These ionised particles have sufficient energy to break organic molecular bonds within tissue.

The by-products of this non-heat driven process are elementary molecules and low molecular weight inert gases. Instead of exploding tissue, Coblation causes a low temperature molecular disintegration. The result is volumetric removal of target tissue with minimal damage to surrounding tissue.

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