HIFU – What is it?
HIFU is a medical procedure that stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound. It is a type of cancer treatment that is now increasingly being used by doctors in Europe, Australia, Israel, America and the United States.
HIFU is a process that destroys damaged or diseased tissues using high-intensity focused sonic energy. It is performed by urologists for the treatment of prostate cancer. A special machine is used that gives off high-frequency rays that reaches the cancer and kills the cancerous cells.
The technique is simple. The machine sends acoustic waves that propagate through the tissue, reaching the affected area. The rays are focused in these two ways:
By using a lens or a spherically curved transducer, beams can be focused geometrically to reach the area properly.
The beam can be forwarded to different locations by adjusting the phases of elements in an array of the transducers.
HIFU is used to treat many kinds of cancers, such as
• Kidney cancer
• Primary and secondary liver cancer
• Prostate cancer
• Bladder cancer
• Pancreatic cancer
Currently, HIFU is only used for research and clinical purposes, as it is not approved by the medical authorities in the U.S. and most of the other countries. HIFU is mostly used in the treatment of prostate cancer, but other types of cancers can also be treated by it.
HIFU is not suitable for:
• Brain tumors
• Lung cancer
• Head and neck cancers
• Pelvic cancers
• Cancer that spread to lymph nodes
• Skin cancers
• It is also used to deliver medication to the brain. It is temporarily used to open the blood-brain barrier to send medicines to the brain.
• It is also used to treat arrhythmia and atrial fibrillation. The method is approved in Europe and is undergoing trials in the U.S.
• It is also used to treat patients suffering from uterine fibroids. It is an approved treatment and is being increasingly used in this field now.
• Since it only uses the sound waves to treat the cancer, it has fewer side effects relatively and is more useful in treating cancers.
• It is very useful for people who cannot undergo surgery due to health issues or other reasons.
• It can also easily be conducted neatly and does not result in the destruction of healthy cells.
• Since this is still a relatively new technique and more is yet to be found out about it, not much is known about the side effects. People who have been treated with this procedure mostly complain of pain for 3-4 days and soreness around the affected area. But then again, this is normal and not something to be extremely concerned about.
• It is believed that HIFU can also have negative effects on healthy cells if not used properly. If the beam reaches healthy cells, then they might also be destroyed along with destroyed or infected cells. However, proper usage, knowledge and experience greatly reduce this problem.
• Another disadvantage is the fact that not much is known about this treatment yet. Chinese doctors were the first ones to try this successfully and then trials moved to different countries in Europe, and now research is being conducted in countries like America, Israel and Australia.
HIFU has made it easier for doctors to save lives and improve the lives of their patients. Research is currently ongoing on HIFU and hopefully it will be used in more procedures soon.
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