Comparisons of monopolar lesion volumes with hypertonic saline solution in radiofrequency ablation: A randomized, double-blind, EX vivo study

Christopher Paul*, Tolga Suvar, Johnathan Goree, Joseph Sanford, Nivetha Srinivasan, Heejung Choi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Background: Chronic degeneration of the zygapophyseal joints in the cervical or lumbar spine are common causes of axial back pain. Radiofrequency (RF) ablation is a treatment modality in the denervation of facet joint–related pain. Although multiple factors have been theorized to contribute to the size of the optimal RF lesion, the addition of hypertonic saline solution has been posited to create larger RF lesion sizes. Objectives: This study compares lesion of 20-gauge RF monopolar probe using 2% lidocaine, 0.9% normal saline solution, and 3% saline solution administered through the RF needle prior to ablation, with subsequent lesion sizes recorded. Study Design: Randomized, double-blinded, ex vivo study using clinically relevant conditions. Setting: Procedural laboratory in an academic institution. Methods: RF ablation lesions were reproduced in room temperature (21°C ± 2°C) chicken breast specimens with 20-gauge monopolar RF probes inserted. RF was applied for 90 seconds at 80°C after injection of 1 mL of either 2% lidocaine, 2% lidocaine and 0.9% normal saline solution in a 1:1 ratio, or 2% lidocaine and 3% saline solution in a 1:1 ratio. Tissues were dissected, measured, and ellipsoid volumes of burn calculated. Homogeneity of variances was assessed via the Bartlett’s test, and heteroskedasticity with the studentized Breusch-Pagan test. One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) (α of 0.05) was used to evaluate statistical significance between volume means across groups. When the null hypothesis of no difference in burn volume between samples could not be rejected, a predefined equivalence volume of ± 0.05 cm3 was used with Welch’s 2 one-sided t-tests (TOST) with a Bonferroni adjusted α of 0.0167 to evaluate for null acceptance. Results: The mean lesion volume for monopolar RF with 1 mL 2% lidocaine was 0.16 cm3. Monopolar RF with 1 mL 2% lidocaine + 0.9% normal saline solution had a mean lesion volume of 0.15 cm3, and treatment with 1 mL 2% lidocaine + 3% saline solution measured 0.17 cm3. ANOVA failed to reject the null, and TOST accepted as equivalent all 3 comparisons. Limitations: In vivo anatomy and physiology of a human organism was not used for this study. Samples were not warmed to physiologic temperature. Randomization resulted in slightly unequal sample sizes, although all groups were of sufficient size that the central limit theorem should apply. Conclusions: Three commonly used solutions were found to have equivalent lesion sizes from monopolar probe RF ablation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-164
Number of pages6
JournalPain physician
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Ablation
  • Hypertonic saline solution
  • Lesion shape
  • Lesion size
  • Monopolar RF
  • Radiofrequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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