Bipolar radiofrequency-induced thermofusion has become a widely accepted method successfully used in open and particularly in minimally-invasive surgery for the sealing of blood vessels and tissue of up to several millimeters diameter. Despite its wide-spread application, the thermofusion process itself is not well understood on a quantitative and dynamic level, and manufacturers largely rely on trial-and-error methods to improve existing instruments. To predict the effect of alternative generator control strategies and to allow for a more systematic approach to improve thermofusion instruments, a mathematical model of the thermofusion process is developed. The system equations describe the spatial and temporal evolution of the tissue temperature due to Joule heating and heat transfer, and the loss of tissue water due to vaporization. The resulting effects on the tissue properties, most importantly the electrical resis- tivity, heat capacity and thermal conductivity, are considered as well. Experimental results indicate that the extent of the lateral thermal damage is directly affected by Joule heating of the lateral tissue. The experimental findings are supported by simulation results using the proposed mathematical model of thermofusion.
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