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PLoS By Category | Recent PLoS Articles
Biophysics - Biotechnology - Oncology - Physics - Surgery

Cryosurgery with Pulsed Electric Fields
Published: Monday, November 07, 2011
Author: Charlotte S. Daniels et al.

by Charlotte S. Daniels, Boris Rubinsky

This study explores the hypothesis that combining the minimally invasive surgical techniques of cryosurgery and pulsed electric fields will eliminate some of the major disadvantages of these techniques while retaining their advantages. Cryosurgery, tissue ablation by freezing, is a well-established minimally invasive surgical technique. One disadvantage of cryosurgery concerns the mechanism of cell death; cells at high subzero temperature on the outer rim of the frozen lesion can survive. Pulsed electric fields (PEF) are another minimally invasive surgical technique in which high strength and very rapid electric pulses are delivered across cells to permeabilize the cell membrane for applications such as gene delivery, electrochemotherapy and irreversible electroporation. The very short time scale of the electric pulses is disadvantageous because it does not facilitate real time control over the procedure. We hypothesize that applying the electric pulses during the cryosurgical procedure in such a way that the electric field vector is parallel to the heat flux vector will have the effect of confining the electric fields to the frozen/cold region of tissue, thereby ablating the cells that survive freezing while facilitating controlled use of the PEF in the cold confined region. A finite element analysis of the electric field and heat conduction equations during simultaneous tissue treatment with cryosurgery and PEF (cryosurgery/PEF) was used to study the effect of tissue freezing on electric fields. The study yielded motivating results. Because of decreased electrical conductivity in the frozen/cooled tissue, it experienced temperature induced magnified electric fields in comparison to PEF delivered to the unfrozen tissue control. This suggests that freezing/cooling confines and magnifies the electric fields to those regions; a targeting capability unattainable in traditional PEF. This analysis shows how temperature induced magnified and focused PEFs could be used to ablate cells in the high subzero freezing region of a cryosurgical lesion.
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