Since the dawn of humanity, health and disease have been a concern for human beings, as our survival depends on it. Fortunately, over the years, medicine has made many technical and technological advances. Among them is HIFU technology .

This is a technology that may sound for its use at an aesthetic level (especially facial rejuvenation or skin rejuvenation of other parts of the body), but it has actually been shown to be useful in diseases as relevant as cancer. Throughout this article we will see what this technology is, what it is used for and in what cases it is contraindicated.

What is HIFU?

HIFU stands for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound . This is a type of technique or procedure with applications of great interest in medicine, and which is based on the application of focused sonic waves directed specifically at a target area or objective, with the aim of causing the death or necrosis of certain cells of living organisms.

The functioning of this technique is based on the fact that the sound waves, concentrated in one area when applied in a beam, end up generating heat energy that produces hyperthermia in the target areas . It also generates a mechanical force, in the form of vibration, that allows the tissues to be compressed or decompressed.

This procedure is non-invasive, since does not require surgery or chemical elements , and has the advantage that it does not generate damage to the tissues between the place of emission of the ultrasound and the target area. The risk of infection or introduction of toxic elements is also reduced.

On the other hand, although effective, it is not as powerful as other common procedures, it can cause burns and may not be helpful depending on the area or organ being treated. It should also be noted that its clinical application dates back to the 1990s,

Indications of this technology

HIFU technology, used as a medical procedure, can have many and varied uses, but the main and most relevant is its use in oncology .

HIFU can be useful in both benign and malignant tumors, and has been applied to fibroids in different parts of the body, such as the breast or uterus. Also in carcinomas, myomas, prostate, pancreas or kidney tumors.

Its use can occur in solid tumors, and sometimes also in cases with liver metastasis. This use can be as an adjuvant treatment to other therapies , as a treatment for relapses or even as a palliative treatment.

It is usually indicated in fibroids, also when there are refusals to transfusions or when surgical resection is not possible. However, there are no excessive data regarding its level of success, and a higher level of research is necessary. Although some studies carried out at the moment seem to corroborate the efficacy in the treatment of problems such as prostate cancer, others have not determined with certainty its efficacy. Other techniques are generally used, but there may be a valuable alternative.

Its use in aesthetic medicine

Secondarily, although it is actually the area in which it is most commonly used in our country, HIFU technology also has applications within the field of aesthetics. Specifically, on occasions it is used to reduce flaccidity and destroy dead cells or even fat cells , without the need for surgical intervention and with the possibility of acting on different areas of the body.

Thus, it is used to perform some lifts, wrinkle reduction treatments and even liposuction with in principle less risk to the patient’s health. Many times it is offered in facial rejuvenation procedures.

Risks and contraindications

While it is considered a safe technique because it is minimally invasive, the use of this technology also has potential risks and side effects. These include increased or decreased sensitivity, edema, bruising or pain during treatment. Also burns may occur .

In addition to the above, it must be taken into account that in reality a rise in temperature is being generated in specific areas of the body, something that can be harmful if there are certain health problems. If misused, it could lead to thyroid problems or even neurological damage .

There are also contraindications to be taken into account. Firstly, pregnant women are contraindicated to the use of this technology. Also those who have autoimmune problems or an altered or weakened immune system , those with open wounds or coagulation problems, people in a feverish process or in a state of hyperthermia.

Another sector where this technology is contraindicated is that of those who wear implants, whether they are aesthetic (the heat can cause them to be reabsorbed or generate severe burns) or medical, such as pacemakers (given the risk that the sonic waves can affect the implant). Neither do those who wear metal implants, at least in the area to be treated or in the vicinity. It is not recommended in case of acne and is contraindicated in those with kidney failure, severe diabetes or metabolic diseases.

Although it is used in some bone tumors, it is usually a type of tissue in which this technology is not used, as well as in the marrow. It is also not used in areas such as the lung, stomach or intestine because the gas they contain limits its effect.

Bibliographic references:

  • Afschin Fatemi, MD (2016). High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound Effectively Reduces Adipose Tissue. Seminars in Cutaneous Medicine and Surgery. Elsevier.
  • Chapelon, J.Y., Margonari, J. & Vernier, F. (1992). In-vivo effects of high intensity ultrasound on prostatic adenocarcinoma Dunning R3327. Cancer Res., 52: 6353-6357.
  • Huber, P., Debus, J. & Jenne, J. (1996). Therapeutic ultrasound in tumor therapy: principles, applications and new developments. Radiologe, 36: 64-71.
  • Lledó García, E., Jara Rascón, J., Subirá Ríos, D., Herranz Amo, F., Martínez-Salamanca, J.I. & Hernández Fernández, C. (2005). Current scientific evidence on the usefulness of High Intensity Ultrasound (HIFU) in the treatment of Prostatic Adenocarcinoma. Actas Urológicas Españolas, 29 (2).
  • Sadick, N. & Magro, C. (2007). A study evaluating the safety and efficacy of the VelaSmooth system in the treatment of cellulite. J Cosmet Laser Ther 9:15-20.