Urology Blog

HIFU – Pioneering Advanced Ultrasound Technology for Prostate Cancer Treatment


by Dr. Amar Singh, MD Specializes in Urology

Erlanger Hospital is proud to announce its position as the first healthcare facility in Tennessee to utilize advanced ultrasound technology to treat patients with prostate cancer. We now offer Robotic Focal HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound), a groundbreaking method for focal prostate treatment.

Historically, the concept of a lumpectomy, as opposed to a radical mastectomy, for breast cancer was met with skepticism and resistance. However, it has since become the standard of care, significantly improving many women’s physical quality of life. Similarly, prostate cancer has been deemed unsuitable for focal therapy, or “lumpectomy,” due to the size and relative inaccessibility of the prostate, the multifocal nature of the disease, and concerns that focal therapy may limit treatment options in case of recurrence.

Today, thanks to Robotic Focal HIFU (high-intensity focused ultrasound), a prostate “lumpectomy” is indeed possible. Erlanger Health leads the way in Tennessee by offering HIFU, a specialized technology explicitly designed for focal treatment of the prostate.

During HIFU treatment, targeted sound waves heat and burn the affected prostate area while preserving healthy tissue. This approach can potentially reduce the risk of side effects such as incontinence or impotence. HIFU has already been successfully used worldwide in Europe, treating over 65,000 patients. Encouraging results have been observed regarding both survival rates and quality of life.

A significant advancement in HIFU treatment is integrating ultrasound images with MRIs and biopsy data, known as “fusion HIFU.” By viewing the combined 3D images on a monitor, physicians can precisely focus the ultrasound waves, improving treatment planning and allowing for smaller margins around the cancerous tissue. This precision minimizes damage to healthy tissue, resulting in fewer side effects for prostate cancer patients undergoing HIFU procedures.

While HIFU may not be suitable for all patients diagnosed with localized prostate cancer, it provides a viable option for those who find active surveillance stressful or wish to avoid radical treatment such as surgery or radiation. HIFU serves as a middle ground between these two approaches, enabling patients to maintain their quality of life.

HIFU is a minimally invasive, radiation-free procedure that directs high-frequency sound waves through a probe inserted into the rectum. By selectively heating and destroying cancerous tissue while sparing healthy areas, HIFU holds promise in reducing the risk of impotence or incontinence. Internationally, HIFU has demonstrated positive outcomes, such as preserving continence for 97% of patients and erectile function for over 78% of men in a multicenter study conducted by the French Association of Urology (AFU).

The fusion of HIFU images with MRIs and biopsy data represents a significant leap forward in prostate cancer treatment. This fusion capability allows for enhanced targeting of diseased tissue during treatment planning, resulting in smaller margins around the contours of the tissue. By minimizing damage to healthy tissue, HIFU reduces side effects.

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