Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is a rapidly evolving, noninvasive, therapeutic technology with the potential to improve the quality of life and decrease the cost of care for patients with pain from many types of cancer. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets deep in the body without damaging surrounding normal tissue.
How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound produces precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue) of the nerves that serve the cancerous region. This enables significant and sustained pain reduction without surgery.
Focused ultrasound technology is approved to relieve several types of pain. One device is approved by the FDA for treatment of pain due to bone metastases. Devices to treat arthritis pain and back pain (originating from facet arthritis) are approved in Europe, but not yet in the United States. Focused ultrasound lessens the pain through targeted and precise ablation of nerves that serve the affected area.
The primary options for treatment of cancer pain include medications and sometimes invasive procedures.
For certain patients, focused ultrasound could provide a noninvasive and perhaps more effective alternative to existing pain management dosing strategies, with less risk of complications – such as surgical wound healing or infection – at a lower cost. Focused ultrasound pain relief does not have the added risks of nausea, respiratory depression, addiction, or other side effects associated with narcotic pain medicines. It can also be repeated, if necessary.
A clinical trial at the University of Virginia is treating patients with severe opioid resistant pain from head or neck cancer with focused ultrasound.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
Focused ultrasound treatment for pain associated with cancer is not yet approved by regulatory bodies or covered by medical insurance companies.
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