The role of electrolyte in lesion size using an irrigated radiofrequency electrode

Jay G. Shake, David W. Larson, Christopher T. Salerno, Richard W. Bianco, R. Morton Bolman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Multiple attempts have been made to eliminate atrial fibrillation by performing the surgical maze procedure with radiofrequency energy. Currently, this is limited because of the risk of atrial perforation and the lack of transmural penetration. Saline irrigation has been investigated as a method of radiofrequency cautery tip cooling to prevent rapid temperature and impedance rises, which have been shown to lead to perforation or decreased radiofrequency penetration after eschar formation. There are few data on the influence that different types of electrolyte irrigation solutions have on lesion depth. Using a novel hollow cautery pen, we infused either an electrolyte solution (0.9%, 3%, 14.6%, or 23.4% sodium chloride), a nonelectrolyte solution (1.5% glycine), or no irrigation to produce 819 lesions on 14 left ventricles in swine using radiofrequency energy (450 ± 10 kHz) applied at two output settings (20 and 75 watts). The nonelectrolyte solution increased lesion depth compared with no infusion at 20 watts but produced shallower lesion depths compared with electrolyte solutions at 75 watts. Compared with the other electrolyte solutions, the 0.9% sodium chloride solution produced the deepest lesions (3.34 ± 0.06 mm) at 75 watts (p < 0.001). As the concentration of electrolyte increased, lesion depth decreased unless generator output increased. Formation of eschar and tissue destruction was seen in the noninfusion and nonelectrolyte groups but not in the electrolyte group. A conductive media coupled with radiofrequency energy allowed for greater lesion depth than irrigated cooling with a nonelectrolyte solution or no irrigation. There was an inverse relationship between electrolyte concentration and lesion depth. We conclude that the concentration of electrolyte irrigant is an important consideration when choosing a solution to improve transmural penetration and decrease the risk of tissue destruction from radiofrequency energy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-348
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Investigative Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jan 1 1997


  • Ablation
  • Atrial fibrillation
  • Electrolyte
  • Maze
  • Radiofrequency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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