Focused Ultrasound Therapy

Outside Approval 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 back pain, as a common cause is arthritis of the facet joints. This novel technology focuses beams of ultrasound energy precisely and accurately on targets deep in the body with minimal damage to surrounding normal tissue.

How it Works
Where the beams converge, the ultrasound produces precise ablation (thermal destruction of tissue) enabling the nerves that carry painful signals from back arthritis to be treated without surgery.

The primary treatment options for chronic low back pain caused by facet arthritis currently include medication, steroid injections, radiofrequency ablation of sensory nerves and invasive surgery.

For certain patients, focused ultrasound could provide a noninvasive alternative to surgery with less risk of complications – such as surgical wound healing or infection – at a lower cost. It can reach the desired target without damaging surrounding tissue and is repeatable, if necessary.

Clinical Trials Square

Clinical Trials

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

A multi-center clinical trial in Canada is evaluating the safety and efficacy of a focused ultrasound device to treat back pain secondary to facet joint arthritis. This study is open to Canadian residents. Another arm of this same clinical trial has opened up in Israel as well.

See a list of back pain clinical trials > 
See a list of laboratory research sites >

Regulatory Approval and Reimbursement

The Insightec magnetic resonance guided focused ultrasound system has been approved in Europe and Russia for the treatment of facetogenic back pain.

Notable Papers

Zhang W, Trivedi H, Adams M, Losey AD, Diederich CJ, Ozhinsky E, Rieke V, Bucknor MD. Anatomic thermochromic tissue-mimicking phantom of the lumbar spine for pre-clinical evaluation of MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) ablation of the facet joint. Int J Hyperthermia. 2021;38(1):130-135. doi: 10.1080/02656736.2021.1880650.

Aginsky R, LeBlang S, Hananel A, Chen J, Gofeld M, Perez J, Shir Y, Aubry JF. Tolerability and Feasibility of X-ray Guided Non-Invasive Ablation of the Medial Branch Nerve with Focused Ultrasound: Preliminary Proof of Concept in a Pre-clinical Model. Ultrasound Med Biol. 2021 Mar;47(3):640-650. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2020.10.019. Epub 2020 Nov 28.

Chen J, LeBlang S, Hananel A, Aginsky R, Perez J, Gofeld M, Shir Y, Aubry JF. An incoherent HIFU transducer for treatment of the medial branch nerve: Numerical study and in vivo validation. Int J Hyperthermia. 2020;37(1):1219-1228. doi: 10.1080/02656736.2020.1828628.

Browne JE, Tiegs-Heiden CA, Lehman VT, Long Z, Hangiandreou NJ, Watson RE, Hesley GK, Gorny KR. Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Guided Focused Ultrasound Ablation of Lumbar Facet Joints of a Patient With a Magnetic Resonance Image Non-Conditional Pacemaker at 1.5T. Mayo Clin Proc Innov Qual Outcomes. 2020 Aug 5;4(4):464-468. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocpiqo.2020.04.010. eCollection 2020 Aug.

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.

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. Review.

Krug R, Do L, Rieke V, Wilson MW, Saeed M. Evaluation of MRI protocols for the assessment of lumbar facet joints after MR-guided focused ultrasound treatment. J Ther Ultrasound. 2016 Apr 6;4:14. doi: 10.1186/s40349-016-0057-8. eCollection 2016.

Filippiadis DK, Kelekis A. A review of percutaneous techniques for low back pain and neuralgia: current trends in epidural infiltrations, intervertebral disk and facet joint therapies. Br J Radiol. 2016;89(1057):20150357. doi: 10.1259/bjr.20150357. Epub 2015 Oct 14.

Harnof S, Zibly Z, Shay L, Digadkin O, Hanannel A, Inbar Y, Goor-Aryeh I, Caspi I. Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound treatment of facet joint pain: summary of preclinical phase.. J Ther Ultrasound. 2014 Feb 28;2:9. doi: 10.1186/2050-5736-2-9.

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. Epub 2012 Aug 31.

Click here for additional references from PubMed.

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