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What is HIFU and Sonablate HIFU?

The Sonablate® 500 (Sonablate) is a medical device designed to treat prostate cancer with HIFU energy. The Sonablate captures real-time images of the prostate gland, allowing the physician to create a customized treatment plan for each patient. The physician uses the Sonablate to deliver the ultrasound energy to targeted sites, or focal points, throughout the prostate gland.

Sonablate HIFU is a minimally invasive, outpatient treatment choice for prostate cancer that does not involve surgery or radiation. The Sonablate is the only HIFU device for prostate cancer that physicians routinely perform on prostates up to 40cc without previously performing a TURP (transurethral resection of the prostate) procedure. 

The Sonablate uses a fully integrated probe that both images the prostates and treats it with HIFU.Sonoblate 500 system

The Sonablate® 500 uses one transducer to both provide treatment and capture real-time images of the area during treatment. The images are sliced into treatment zones, two from side to side and three from top to bottom. This creates six individual zones that the doctor can view. This allows the doctor to use the Sonablate® software to provide unmatched customization for each patient’s individual treatment. 

This image shows how the Sonablate® 500 focuses the HIFU beam directly into the prostate gland (image courtesy of Takai Hospital Supply Co., Japan). Both the linear and sector views can be seen. 

The idea for the Sonablate® 500 began in the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis in the 1970s. Since that time, research centers worldwide have helped to perfect the design and make the Sonablate® ready for global use. 

The first step to the non-invasive prostate treatment with the Sonablate® 500 is to take a real-time image of the prostate. The treatment software allows the doctor to map out the procedure using Simul-Plan™ Therapy Planning. Each area of the prostate can be specifically selected for specialized treatment using this image.

Once the treatment plan has been mapped, the doctor selects the targeted tissue and simply clicks a mouse to send the HIFU beam through the same transducer that captured the images. 

Among patients who have been treated with HIFU, 87% report no cancer after five years. Also, there is 75% less chance of side effects with this treatment than any other prostate cancer treatment option. 

Physics of HIFUTo understand how the HIFU process works to destroy cancer cells, it is best to start with remembering something you likely did as a child with a magnifying glass. If you recall, when you focused the light from the sun onto a leaf on the ground at a certain angle, the leaf would burn. 

The reason the leaf burned is because the magnifying glass causes the sun’s rays to intersect at a point below the glass. This point of intersection creates extremely high temperatures. You could have put the leaf in any other section of the light beam and it would not have burned. It is only at the point of intersection where there is enough heat to burn the leaf. 

This is the same principle used in HIFU technology. The transducer replaces the magnifying glass, and the sound waves replace the rays from the sun. But the rest of the analogy remains very much the same. typical treatment images


During a HIFU treatment, the doctor will use real-time images to guide the transducer towards the prostate. The sound waves are then directed to intersect in the center of the prostate, where the temperature increases, thus destroying the cells. The real-time images are important to the success of the treatment, because they allow the doctor to make changes throughout the procedure for maximum effectiveness.

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