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 depression. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasonic energy precisely and accurately on targets deep in the brain without damaging surrounding normal tissue.
How it Works
Where the beams converge, focused ultrasound produces thermal ablation, meaning that the targeted tissue is heated and destroyed where the beams converge. Additional research is using neuromodulation, where focused ultrasound is used to alter the activity of certain receptors to improve depression.
Current treatments for depression include medications, electroconvulsive therapy, surgery (radiofrequency or laser ablation, deep brain stimulation), or stereotactic radiosurgery (gamma knife, linear accelerator), all of which have limitations and side effects.
Focused ultrasound has the potential to provide an alternative to invasive surgery or radiosurgery via precise thermal ablation, or to augment drug therapy.
Focused ultrasound is noninvasive – no incisions, holes in the skull, electrodes in the brain – and therefore has reduced risk for infection and blood clots. It also enables precise targeting and minimizes damage to non-targeted, healthy brain. Focused ultrasound can also be a complement to drug therapy, enabling enhanced delivery of therapies into the brain via temporary opening of the blood-brain barrier.
A clinical trial in Oklahoma is using low intensity focused ultrasound to treat patients with depression.
A clinical trial in the University of Utah is using low frequency focused ultrasound to treat depression.
A clinical trial in Austin, Texas, is using neuromodulation of the amygdala to treat depression and bipolar depression. Enrollment has been completed.
A clinical trial in Rhode Island is using neuromodulation to the amygdala to treat depression.
A clinical trial in Los Angeles is treating depression. This trial is recruiting patients by invitation.
Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement
Focused ultrasound is only approved by for the treatment of depression in Korea. Outside of the South Korean National Health Insurance System, we are not aware of this treatment reimbursed by any other medical insurance providers.
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Chang JG, Jung HH, Kim SJ, Chang WS, Jung NY, Kim CH, Chang JW. Bilateral thermal capsulotomy with magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound for patients with treatment-resistant depression: A proof-of-concept study. Bipolar Disord. 2020 Jun 24. doi: 10.1111/bdi.12964.
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