And, it's with funding from a space medicine research institute that this breakthrough device will one day kill tumors and stop internal bleeding without knives, scalpels or stitches - basically without surgery as we know it.
High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) devices target ultrasound in precise locations for non-invasive surgical treatments. Using diagnostic ultrasound to image a problem area, tumor site or internal trauma injury, an individual can then point-and-shoot the HIFU transducer and destroy unwanted tissue or cauterize a lesion or blood vessel.
"With HIFU we increase the amplitude of the ultrasound. Instead of dispersing the ultrasound in a fan-like arrangement, which gives you internal images, we focus the ultrasound like a magnifying glass," said Dr. Lawrence Crum, associate team leader for the Smart Medical Systems Team for the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI). The Institute, along with the United States Department of Defense, is helping to fund the device's development.
"The device increases the intensity of the ultrasound and focuses it to generate heat inside the body with pinpoint accuracy. So the treatment doesn't affect surrounding tissue," Crum said.
The HIFU device is being developed for use in remote areas or on battlefields where traditional treatment is not possible. Once developed, the device will be ideal for ambulance and emergency room applications as well.
"We've developed devices that have been used to stop bleeding and treat tumors. These are not yet approved for human use," said Crum, who is director of the Center for Industrial and Medical Ultrasound at the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory.
This method of treatment would have made a big difference had it been available to Jerri Nielsen, the
Contact: Liesl Owens
National Space Biomedical Research Institute