Electrolytic Effects During Tissue Ablation by Electroporation.
Published Web Locationhttps://doi.org/10.1177/1533034615601549
Nonthermal irreversible electroporation is a new tissue ablation technique that consists of applying pulsed electric fields across cells to induce cell death by creating permanent defects in the cell membrane. Nonthermal irreversible electroporation is of interest because it allows treatment near sensitive tissue structures such as blood vessels and nerves. Two recent articles report that electrolytic reaction products at electrodes can be combined with electroporation pulses to augment and optimize tissue ablation. Those articles triggered a concern that the results of earlier studies on nonthermal irreversible electroporation may have been tainted by unaccounted for electrolytic effects. The goal of this study was to reexamine previous studies on nonthermal irreversible electroporation in the context of these articles. The study shows that the results from some of the earlier studies on nonthermal irreversible electroporation were affected by unaccounted for electrolysis, in particular the research with cells in cuvettes. It also shows that tissue ablation ascribed in the past to irreversible electroporation is actually caused by at least 3 different cytotoxic effects: irreversible electroporation without electrolysis, irreversible electroporation combined with electrolysis, and reversible electroporation combined with electrolysis. These different mechanisms may affect cell and tissue ablation in different ways, and the effects may depend on various clinical parameters such as the polarity of the electrodes, the charge delivered (voltage, number, and length of pulses), and the distance of the target tissue from the electrodes. Current clinical protocols employ ever-increasing numbers of electroporation pulses to values that are now an order of magnitude larger than those used in our first fundamental nonthermal irreversible electroporation studies in tissues. The different mechanisms of cell death, and the effect of the clinical parameters on the mechanisms may explain discrepancies between results of different clinical studies and should be taken into consideration in the design of optimal electroporation ablation protocols.