Focused Ultrasound Therapy

Clinical Trials Square

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 arthritis. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets in the body without damaging surrounding normal tissue. Where the beams converge, the ultrasound produces precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue) enabling arthritis to be treated without surgery.

There are multiple targets that can be treated. This section gives overall information, but please see specific entries for arthritis of the knee, hip, hand, sacroiliac as well as the section on back pain. For many types of arthritis, the option of joint replacement is considered. Unfortunately, even with a quality primary joint replacement, the new joints do wear out, raising the need for a revision joint replacement (a second procedure on a previously replaced joint). The revision surgery is a much more difficult task than a primary one. The use of focused ultrasound to delay the timing of the primary joint replacement, may eliminate the need for a revision surgery.

Many joints are replaced due to the pain that comes with arthritis. Many focused ultrasound research studies are looking at destroying the sensory nerves to the painful joint, which can allow patients to delay the need for surgery due to the painful joint.

The primary options for treatment of arthritis include medication and invasive surgery.

For certain patients, focused ultrasound could provide a noninvasive alternative to surgery with less risk of complications and lower cost.


  • Focused ultrasound is noninvasive, so it does not carry added concerns like surgical wound healing or infection.
  • Focused ultrasound can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue.
  • It can be repeated, if necessary.

Clinical Trials

A clinical trial in Taiwan is looking at treating facet arthritis causing low back pain with focused ultrasound. 

A clinical trial in Canada using focused ultrasound to treat facet arthritis causing low back pain has been completed. The patients will to be monitored prior to the publication of the results, which is expected in late 2020. This same technique has expanded into a trial at multiple Canadian sites. Only Canadian citizens are able to participate in this study.

See a full list of arthritis clinical trials >

See a list of laboratory research sites >

Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement

Focused ultrasound treatment for arthritis is not yet approved by regulatory bodies or covered by medical insurance companies.

Notable Papers

Song BW, Park JH, Kim B, Lee S, Lim S, Kim SW, Choi JW, Lee J, Kang M, Hwang KC, Chae DS, Kim IK. A Combinational Therapy of Articular Cartilage Defects: Rapid and Effective Regeneration by Using Low-Intensity Focused Ultrasound After Adipose Tissue-Derived Stem Cell Transplantation. Tissue Eng Regen Med. 2020 Apr 9. doi: 10.1007/s13770-020-00256-6.

Tiegs-Heiden CA, Lehman VT, Gorny KR, Boon AJ, Hesley GK. Improved Treatment Response Following Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Guided Focused Ultrasound for Lumbar Facet Joint Pain. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2019 Dec 28;4(1):109-113. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2019.10.003. eCollection 2020 Feb.

Nieminen HJ, Lampsijärvi E, Barreto G, Finnilä MAJ, Salmi A, Airaksinen AJ, Eklund KK, Saarakkala S, Pritzker KPH, Hæggström E. Localized delivery of compounds into articular cartilage by using high-intensity focused ultrasound. Sci Rep. 2019 Nov 4;9(1):15937. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-52012-z

Cotero V, Graf J, Zachs DP, Tracey KJ, Ashe J, Lim HH, Puleo C. Peripheral Focused Ultrasound Stimulation (pFUS): New Competitor in Pharmaceutical Markets? SLAS Technol. 2019 Jun 17:2472630319849383. doi: 10.1177/2472630319849383.

Scipione R, Anzidei M, Bazzocchi A, Gagliardo C, Catalano C, Napoli A. HIFU for Bone Metastases and other Musculoskeletal Applications. Semin Intervent Radiol. 2018 Oct;35(4):261-267. doi: 10.1055/s-0038-1673363. Epub 2018 Nov 5.

Izumi M, Ikeuchi M, Kawasaki M, Ushida T, Morio K, Namba H, Graven-Nielsen T, Ogawa Y, Tani T. MR-guided focused ultrasound for the novel and innovative management of osteoarthritic knee pain. BMC Musculoskelet Disord. 2013 Sep 13;14:267. doi: 10.1186/1471-2474-14-267.

Weeks EM, Platt MW, Gedroyc W. MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) to treat facet joint osteoarthritis low back pain--case series of an innovative new technique. Eur Radiol. 2012 Dec;22(12):2822-35. doi: 10.1007/s00330-012-2628-6. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

See additional references from PubMed.

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