What’s high intensity focused ultrasound?

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High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a cancer treatment that uses sound waves to destroy cancer cells with fewer side effects than other treatments. It is effective for individual cancers and can also be used to treat non-cancerous tumors. Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRI-guided FUS) is used to remove fibroids from the uterus without damaging surrounding tissue. Although expensive, it has benefits such as reduced side effects and shorter hospital stays. Ongoing studies may demonstrate the utility of HIFU in treating other conditions such as pain from bone metastases.

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU or HIFUS) is a cancer treatment that uses high-frequency sound waves. A focused beam of sound waves is directed at cancer cells to heat and destroy them. In the short term, high-intensity focused ultrasound appears to have fewer side effects than other cancer treatments. Since this is a relatively new and experimental method, long-term effects are unknown. Prostate, kidney and bladder cancer can be treated with HIFU, and the technique has also been used to treat non-cancerous tumors such as uterine fibroids.

HIFU is more effective for individual cancers. In cases where the tumors have spread throughout the body, other methods of treatment are usually used. The location of a tumor could also make the technique unsuitable. In addition to cancers of the kidney, bladder, and prostate, high-intensity focused ultrasound can be used to treat cancers of the pancreas and liver. It is also used, in combination with magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to remove fibroids from the uterus.

In the treatment of fibroids, magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRI-guided FUS) involves using an MRI scanner to precisely visualize the location of the tumor. The patient is awake and lying face down inside the scanner, with a button to alert staff if any discomfort occurs during the process. MRI scans allow for a three-dimensional view of the inside of the body in real time. This allows a beam of sound waves to be focused on a small area of ​​the fibroid.

The pulses of sound energy heat the tissue until the cells are killed, and this happens without damaging any of the surrounding tissue. The dead tissue, which has been heated and destroyed by the high-intensity sound waves, is reabsorbed into the body. Further pulses of the sound wave are used to destroy all of the tumor, with the MRI images showing which areas have been treated and which have not.

Although MRI-guided FUS is expensive due to the cost of the technology involved, the benefits include reduced side effects and shorter hospital stays. There is also the advantage over surgery that a general anesthetic is not required for this type of procedure. While it is known to be effective in treating benign and cancerous tumors, ongoing studies may demonstrate the utility of high-intensity focused ultrasound in treating other conditions, such as pain from bone metastases. Bone metastases are cancerous growths that have spread to the bone from the original tumor.

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