HIFU stands for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound. Ultrasound is a form of energy that can pass through skin, muscle, fat and other soft tissues. Low-intensity ultrasound waves (used for diagnostic imaging) have no biologic effect on cells or tissues.
High-intensity ultrasound energy focused on a small target volume raises the tissue temperature high enough to destroy it. This is similar to the manner in which sunlight focused by a magnifying glass can create sufficient heat to start a fire. The use of heat to destroy tissue is called thermal ablation.
More generally, HIFU is a medical technique used in oncology, in which high-intensity focused ultrasound is used to heat and quickly destroy pathogenic cells.
HIFU is not yet approved in the USA, but has been used in other countries for several years. It is currently in testing at some cancer centers across the US. One of these centers is USHIFU LLC which is in third stage of FDA approval for prostate cancer treatment using HIFU. USHIFU currently also provides treatments for patients in nearly 100 HIFU centers worldwide.
USHIFU uses Sonablate® 500 to destroy deep-seated tissue with pinpoint accuracy for the minimally invasive treatment not only for prostate cancer but also to benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), also known as enlarged prostate.
In this animation from USHIFU we can see how Sonablate® 500 works:
USHIFU’s site is very pleasant and informative. The site was built mostly with the patients in mind. In the Patient Information section we can find explanations for HIFU treatments, videos and impressive testimonials, for example. A big emphasis is given to prostate cancer treatment, explaining prostate cancer symptoms, the different kind of treatments available and a comparison with HIFU treatment (containing a comparison table of HIFU devices). A lot of care has also been taken to show the potential side effects of this treatment, comparing them with traditional prostate cancer treatments. This chart (PDF) is very illustrative outlining all the possible side effects from surgery, radiation and cryotherapy. A very useful FAQ is also available.
If you are interested in getting information on HIFU for prostate cancer treatment, USHIFU site is definitively one of the places that you should start to visit.
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