Treatments & Procedures

High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)

What is high-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU)?

High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is an advanced, minimally invasive procedure that is used to treat certain conditions, including cancer. The treatment involves using high-intensity, highly focused ultrasound waves.

Ultrasound scans are regularly used by doctors to obtain images of the inside of the body. They involve using high-frequency sound waves which produce real-time images of soft tissues or organs.

Instead of producing images, HIFU directs many high-intensity and highly focused sound waves at specific parts of the body. These intense sound waves then interact with targeted tissues and modify or destroy them. The focused beams of sound waves cause the temperature of the targeted tissue to increase, which destroys it. This is called ablation.

Doctors guide the HIFU to the targeted tissue using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound. The sound beams can reach the target tissue through layers of skin and other tissue without harming them.

When is HIFU used?

HIFU is used to treat a number of conditions, affecting a number of organs and tissues, such as uterine fibroids, tremors and thyroid nodules.

HIFU is also used to treat certain cancerous and non-cancerous tumors. It is commonly used to treat the following types of cancer:

What are the advantages of HIFU?

The main advantage of HIFU is that it is a minimally invasive procedure. No incisions are needed meaning it can be done in an outpatient setting and recovery is faster.

HIFU therapy also allows doctors to target diseased tissue precisely, which means surrounding healthy tissue are unharmed, and no radiation is used.

Compared to other, more invasive cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery, HIFU has fewer side effects and is generally safer.

What are the disadvantages of HIFU?

In general, HIFU is associated with a very low risk of complications in medical use. Side effects will depend on the type of condition and area being treated.

It is important to remember that HIFU isn’t a suitable treatment for every type of tumor. For example, it can only be used to successfully treat prostate cancer if it is at an early stage and has not spread to other parts of the body.

What happens during a HIFU procedure?

The procedure will differ according to the area being treated. In general, your doctor will stabilize the area being treated with a device and then use an imaging modality to find the exact area being targeted.

The HIFU probe is then centered above the target tissue (usually on the skin or inserted into the rectum for prostate cancer). The beams of ultrasound are then delivered in bursts and adjusted if needed. The imaging tool will then make sure the targeted tissue has been destroyed. Usually, only one session of HIFU is needed.

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This page has been reviewed by a medical professional from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi. Information on this page is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

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