Study objective: To investigate, in an animal model, the feasibility of radiofrequency (RF) volumetric tongue reduction for the future purpose of determining its clinical applications in obstructive sleep apnea syndrome (OSAS).
Design: The study was performed in three stages, one in vitro bovine stage and two in vivo porcine stages. The last stage was a prospective investigation with histologic and volumetric analyses to establish outcomes.
Setting: Laboratory and operating room of veterinary research center.
Participants: A homogeneous population of porcine animal models, including seven in stage 2 and 12 in stage 3.
Intervention: RF energy was delivered by a custom-fabricated needle electrode and RF generator to the tongue tissue of both the in vitro and in vivo models.
Measurements and results: Microultrasonic crystals were used to measure three-dimensional changes (volumetric reduction). Lesion size correlated well with increasing RF energy delivery (Sperman correlation coefficient of 0.986; p=0.0003). Histologic assessments done serially over time (1 h through 3 weeks) showed a well-circumscribed lesion with a normal healing progression and no peripheral damage to nerves. Volumetric analysis documented a very mild initial edematous response that promptly tapered at 24 h. At 10 days after RF, a 26.3% volume reduction was documented at the treatment site (circumscribed by the microultrasonic crystals).
Conclusion: RF, in a porcine animal model, can safely reduce tongue volume in a precise and controlled manner. Further studies will validate the use of RF in the treatment of OSAS.