HIFU is an acronym that stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, and it is a medical treatment that uses the power of ultrasound waves to heat and destroy tissue deep inside the body. When used to treat prostate cancer, it provides highly precise results with pinpoint accuracy, destroying the prostate cancer by destroying the glandular tissue while leaving surrounding tissue unharmed.

A Scientific Object Lesson

In elementary science classes, students often experiment with the power of the sun by focusing light rays through a magnifying glass onto a piece of paper or a dry leaf. When the magnifying glass is held at a specific angle, the paper or leaf will burn. However, the student can pass his or her hand through the light beam at any other point other than the point that is burning without pain.

The point at which the leaf or paper burns is known as a focal point. All of the rays of light are bent until they meet at that point, which then heats up to the burning point. HIFU works on the same principle, but using sound waves rather than sunlight. During HIFU treatment, a transducer sends ultrasound waves into the tissue to a focal point. The combined energy from the waves at the focal point causes the tissue to heat to the point of destruction, but the individual waves pass harmlessly through the surrounding tissue.

With HIFU treatment, ultrasound waves can gather images of the prostate gland. During HIFU with the Sonablate 500, the same transducer that delivers the treatment also captures real-time images. This allows surgeons to tailor the treatment to a patient’s own individual response to the treatment.

What to Expect

HIFU lasts between one and four hours for most patients. The procedure is done with spinal anesthesia on an outpatient basis. It can be repeated or used as a salvage treatment because it is non-ionizing.