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Br J Radiol. 2003 Sep;76(909):590-9.

High intensity focused ultrasound: surgery of the future?

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  • 1Department of Urology, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, Head of Therapeutic Ultrasound, Royal Marsden Hospital, Sutton and Consultant Urologist, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, UK.


For 50 years, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) has been a subject of interest for medical research. HIFU causes selective tissue necrosis in a very well defined volume, at a variable distance from the transducer, through heating or cavitation. Over the past decade, the use of HIFU has been investigated in many clinical settings. This literature review aims to summarize recent advances made in the field. A Medline-based literature search (1965-2002) was conducted using the keywords "HIFU" and "high intensity focused ultrasound". Additional literature was obtained from original papers and published meeting abstracts. The most abundant clinical trial data comes from studies investigating its use in the treatment of prostatic disease, although early research looked at applications in neurosurgery. More recently horizons have been broadened, and the potential of HIFU as a non-invasive surgical tool has been demonstrated in many settings including the treatment of tumours of the liver, kidney, breast, bone, uterus and pancreas, as well as conduction defects in the heart, for surgical haemostasis, and the relief of chronic pain of malignant origin. Further clinical evaluation will follow, but recent technological development suggests that HIFU is likely to play a significant role in future surgical practice.

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