HIFU side effects

HIFU treatment, which stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, uses tightly focused ultrasound waves to treat uterine fibroids as well as localized tumors in prostate cancer. It does this by generating a lot of heat within the tissue and destroying it through hyperthermia.

For prostate cancer, HIFU is only applicable in men with unifocal or unilateral prostate cancer (i.e. their cancer is localized to a single tumor within the prostate or multiple small tumors on the same side of the prostate gland). It is not currently an FDA-approved treatment for this cancer in the United States, although it has been approved to treat uterine fibroids.

Side effects associated with traditional prostate cancer treatments such as radiotherapy and surgery include damage to the surrounding tissue and structures such as the muscles and nerves involved in erectile and orgasmic function as well as controlling urination. These can be temporary but sometimes they can lead to permanent incontinence or permanent impotence.

Side effects often relatively mild

The side effects of HIFU treatment are said to be significantly more mild than those brought on by radiotherapy, surgery, chemotherapy, or hormone therapy.

For instance, HIFU treatment:

… can disrupt or damage the structures near the prostate gland that control urination, erectile function, etc, but proponents claim that this is generally not the case and much of the time, even if it occurs temporarily, these functions will return and be preserved in the long-term.

… requires that the patient wear a cathetar for a couple of weeks following the procedure, because of the potential for uirinary issues that include frequent urination as well as urgency to urinate. Furthermore, men may experience a discharge of blood or mucus.

… involves the complete ablation (destruction) of the prostate gland. It also involves ablation of the prostatic urethra. However, unlike the fate of the gland (which will not regrow), the prostatic urethra is made of bladder squamous-type epithelium cells and will regenerate over time.


Haar GT, Coussios C. High intensity focused ultrasound: physical principles and devices. Int J Hyperthermia. 2007 Mar;23(2):89-104

About.com, Ultrasound treatment for prostate cancer

(caution: the following are commercial sites for specific device makers)

UKHIFU, Prostate cancer

HIFU Medical Experts, FAQ


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