The Effect of Local Anesthetics and Contrast Agents on Radiofrequency Ablation Lesion Size

Nicole Ortiz, Leili Shahgholi, Lynn Kohan, Sayed E. Wahezi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Radiofrequency ablation (RFA) is a validated treatment option for the treatment of chronic pain in patients with lumbar spondylosis. Lesion size has been suggested to correlate with good clinical outcomes. This has created an abundance of scientific interest in the development of products with larger lesion characteristics. Needle characteristics, energy transfer, and heat rate are known to modify lesion size. Here, we demonstrate that common intraoperative solutions, such as lidocaine, iodine, and gadolinium-based products, can also affect lesion shape. OBJECTIVES: To determine whether lidocaine and contrast agents modify lesion characteristics during the performance of monopolar RFA. STUDY DESIGN: Controlled, ex vivo study using clinically relevant conditions and pre-injections. SETTING: Academic institution in a procedural setting. METHODS: RFA lesion size was compared among six cohorts: 1) lidocaine 1%, 2) lidocaine 2%, 3) iohexol 180, 4) iohexol 240, 5) gadodiamide, and 6) control (no fluid control). Radiofrequency (RF) current was applied for 90 seconds at 80°C via 20-gauge 100-mm standard RFA needles with 10-mm active tips in orgranic chicken breasts without preservative at room temperature (21°C). Twelve lesions were performed for each medication cohort. The length, width, and depth of each lesion were measured. The statistical significance between each medication group and the control group was evaluated by t test. RESULTS: The mean lesion surface area of monopolar RFA without any pre-injection used was 80.8 mm2. The mean surface area of the monopolar RF lesion with a pre-injection of 0.2 mL of 2% lidocaine was 114 mm2, and the mean surface area of the monopolar RF lesion with a pre-injection of 0.2 mL of iohexol 240 was 130.6 mm2. The statistical analysis demonstrated that the control group had significantly smaller lesion sizes than did the groups in which lidocaine 2% and iohexol 240 were used (P<0.01). There were no statistically significant differences among the groups in which lidocaine 1%, iohexol 180, and gadodiamide were used. A notable difference was a 20% longer lesion with iohexol 240 compared with the control group and a 20% wider lesion with lidocaine 2% compared with the control group. LIMITATIONS: In vivo anatomy within a human was not used in this study, nor were the chicken breasts heated to physiological temperature. Randomization of pieces of chicken breast did not occur, and thus intrinsic differences among the chicken breast pieces could play a confounding role. CONCLUSIONS: Lidocaine 2% and iohexol 240, when used as pre-injections in RFAs, were found to be associated with statistically significant increases in lesion surface area. However, RFAs with lidocaine 1%, iohexol 180, or gadodiamide were not found to produce a statistically significant difference in lesion size compared with monopolar RFA without the use of injectate.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)269-274
Number of pages6
JournalPain medicine (Malden, Mass.)
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Injection Solution
  • Lesion Size
  • Monopolar
  • Radiofrequency Ablation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


Dive into the research topics of 'The Effect of Local Anesthetics and Contrast Agents on Radiofrequency Ablation Lesion Size'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this