High intensity focussed ultrasound technique (HIFU) also known as focussed ultrasound surgery (FUS) uses non-ionizing ultrasound waves to heat up your body tissues. Temperature can be increased up to 70 to 90°C. These sound waves do not pass through air and bone. It is used for multi purposes. It works to increase your blood and lymph flow stimulates cell division and destroys tumor cells. It can also be used to treat a number of disorders including various types of cancer and uterine fibroids. Its use in the treatment of prostate cancer is gaining fame. It can also be used for cosmetic reasons, to reduce wrinkles, aging lines and to lift your loose skin. It is found to be most effective on jawline and cheeks. It should always be performed by the experts because sonication of wrong tissue can be dangerous. Also, there might be incomplete destruction of the tumor. Some areas of your body can not be sonicated as they are sensitive to sound waves, this should also be kept in mind while performing HIFU. It can only be used to treat localized cancer and tumors. Cancer which has spread cannot be cured through HIFU.
As HIFU is involved in the treatment of a number of diseases, before going through it, you may suffer from those diseases. These disorders include ovarian fibroids, different types of cancers, breast tumors, Parkinsonism and a number of other neurological disabilities. You might have loose skin of face, neck, and chest. Vaginal laxity is also a problem. After HIFU, your tumors are destroyed, cancer cells are killed and diseases are cured. Your loose skin looks tightened and strengthened. Wrinkles and aging lines are gone. Vaginal and skin laxity is removed. You look younger than your actual age.
The procedure begins with cleaning the area to be sonicated with alcohol swab so that there are no germs and bacteria. In the next step, a gel is applied on to your skin. Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or ultrasound is used to focus the exact tissue, organ or tumor that needs to be treated. The individual is sedated to avoid discomfort and pain during the procedure. After this, the procedure differs according to the purpose of HIFU. In general, an acoustic lens is used to focus sound waves on the targeted organ. The transducer device is used to emit sound waves. The sound waves propagate through the various layers of skin to reach the tumor to be destructed. When sound waves reach the tumor, heat is produced there increasing the temperature up to 90°C in 20 seconds only. This heat starts destroying the cancer cells there.
Length of Stay in Destination
It is a 1 to 4 hours procedure. It depends upon the purpose for which HIFU is being performed and generally, it is an outpatient procedure. You can be discharged from the hospital after the effects of the sedatives subside. You should plan to stay in the local area for at least 14 days after your Procedure, this will allow for the initial recovery and follow-up check-ups, etc.
The recovery time differs and depends upon the purpose for which HIFU is being carried out. You may suffer from pain and discomfort for 3 to 4 days after the procedure. There are soreness and swelling which subsides in 2 to 3 weeks. It has less recovery time and has less invasive technique approved by the FDA. The Non-ionizing radiations used in this technique are the least damaging.
Aftercare differs in accordance with the purpose for which HIFU is done. However, the following points should be kept in mind to look after yourself at home after being discharged:
- Visit your doctor on a regular basis.
- Do not drive home if you are still under the influence of sedatives.
- Eat healthily. Follow a diet plan made by an expert. It can help you recover faster.
- Take your medicines as and when prescribed by the doctor.
- Take a rest and give yourself time to recover.
- In the case of HIFU for cosmetic reasons, avoid contact with sunlight and wear sunscreen while going out.
- Do not rub or massage your skin.
- Look for something wrong. If you find any sign, visit your doctor immediately.
- In case of any discomfort, contact your physician. Do not go for self-medication.
HIFU has been found to be very successful in the treatment of most of the disorders. However, the success rate differs for each purpose. According to a study, the overall success rate for prostate cancer treatment was reported to be 84%. Cancer patients were divided into 3 groups. The high-risk group showed a 0% success rate. The intermediate group showed a higher success rate reaching 83.4% and the low-risk group showed the highest success rate of 94.2%. It is also found to be very effective and successful in treating skin laxity and uterine fibroids.
Alternatives to High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU) Procedure
In actual, HIFU itself is a non-surgical alternative to most of the surgeries. However, the following are some useful alternatives to HIFU:
- Dermal fillers: it is an alternative of HIFU for a facelift. Injections containing Botox, Restylane, etc. are given into your skin to make it look lifted and plump. Your skin looks wrinkle-free and you look younger than your age.
- Uterine artery embolization: this is a treatment for uterine fibroids. Arteries supplying the uterus are occluded by injecting an embolic agent into it. This cuts off blood supply to the fibroids causing them to shrink and ultimately die.
- Radical prostatectomy: also known as an open prostatectomy, entire prostate and seminal vesicle along with some lymph nodes in the pelvic area is surgically removed. Nerve damage is avoided to ensure erection and active sexual life afterward.
- Bilateral orchiectomy: in this surgery, both the testicles are surgically removed. This helps in treating prostate cancer.
- Brachytherapy: in this therapy, radioactive substances are directly inserted into the prostate gland. These are called seeds which give off radiations around the area where they were placed.
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