Partial thickness articular cartilage lesions are commonly encountered in orthopedic surgery. These lesions do not have the ability to heal by themselves, due to lack of vascular supply. Several types of treatment have addressed this problem, including mechanical debridement and thermal chondroplasty. The goal of these treatments is to provide a smooth cartilage surface and prevent propagation of the lesions. Early thermal chondroplasty was performed using lasers, and yielded very mixed results, including severe damage to the cartilage, due to poor control of the induced thermal effects. This led to the development (including commercial) of probes using radiofrequency to generate the thermal effects desired for chondroplasty. Similar concerns over the quantitative aspects and control ability of the induced thermal effects in these treatments led us to test the whole range of complex issues and parameters involved. Our investigations are designed to simultaneously evaluate clinical conditions, instrument variables for existing radiofrequency probes (pressure, speed, distance, dose) as well as the associated basic science issues such as damage temperature and controllability (down to the subcellular level), damage geometry, and effects of surrounding conditions (medium, temperature, flow, pressure). The overall goals of this work are (1) to establish whether thermal chondroplasty can be used in a safe and efficacious manner, and (2) provide a prescription for multi-variable optimization of the way treatments are delivered, based on quantitative analysis. The methods used form an interdisciplinary set, to include precise mechanical actuation, high accuracy temperature and temperature gradient control and measurement, advanced imaging approaches and mathematical modeling.