Focused Ultrasound Therapy
Focused ultrasound is an early stage, 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.
The mechanism of action is thermal ablation, meaning that the targeted tissue is heated and destroyed where the beams converge.
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 non-invasive – no incisions, holes in the skull, electrodes in the brain – and therefore has reduced risk for infection and blood clots.
- Precise targeting minimizes damage to non-targeted healthy brain.
- Treatment can 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 was completed at the YUMC Severance Hospital in Seoul, Korea evaluated the feasibility, safety and initial efficacy of focused ultrasound in the treatment of major depressive disorder for patients who are not candidates for, or who choose not to undergo, more invasive procedures. This study was published in June 2020.
A clinical trial evaluating treatment of patients with refractory major depressive disorder has begun in Canada. This trial is only open to citizens of Canada.
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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Click here for additional references from PubMed.