Surgery by sound removes tumours
Monday 09 November 1998
The technique, which marks a step on the road to bloodless operations, involves the generation of high-intensity ultrasound about 10,000 times more powerful than that used to show pregnant women the developing foetus in the womb.
The high-energy beam is focused on a point inside the body where it "cooks" malignant tissue without harming neighbouring healthy tissue. A shot lasting one or two seconds raises the temperature to more than 55C, high enough to destroy the cells in the target area.
The technique is also being developed for the treatment of soldiers wounded in battle. Four in ten battlefield deaths are caused by internal bleeding and a device that could "spot weld" damaged blood vessels in the field would save many lives.
Researchers at the Royal Marsden Hospital in London have used the technique experimentally on 23 patients with prostate, kidney and liver cancers. The treatment required no anaesthetic and caused nothing more than a slight tingling in the prostate gland, which the men involved described as "not unpleasant".
The patients all had advanced disease and the experiment, known as a phase I trial, was carried out only to see how well the treatment was tolerated. Robert Shearer, medical director of the Royal Marsden and a consultant urologist who was involved in the trial, said: "It does seem to produce destruction of malignant tissue with minimal side-effects."
The technique, known as High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, uses transducers to produce the powerful energies required. The beam can be focused to a depth of 15 centimetres so it can target any part of the body that is visible with ordinary ultrasound and is so precise it is sharper than a scalpel.
Mr Shearer said the device, described in The Lancet, could be in use within two or three years for the treatment of patients with advanced cancer which had spread to other organs but there would need to be careful evaluation to see if it extended survival.
"It is absolutely fascinating. It may be used for tissue destruction of metastatic disease [cancer which has spread]. But it may have an even more important role on the battlefield," he said.
In the United States, researchers funded by the military are hoping to develop a portable ultrasound device that will both locate and treat internal haemorrhages. A team at the University of Washington in Seattle has experimented on pigs' livers, creating a wall of cauterised tissue that allowed a thick lobe to be cut away with minimal bleeding.
Mr Shearer said: "The aim is to develop a device that could be used to stabilise a patient where they were injured and then get them back to a medical centre where they could be tidied up."
- 1 This restaurant has misunderstood the concept of 'cheese and biscuits'
- 2 Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
- 3 PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
- 4 Have sex with your iPad thanks to the new sex toy no-one asked for
- 5 The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
Delhi bus rapist blames dead victim for attack because 'girls are responsible for rape'
PornHub turns masturbation into energy in bid to save the planet
Spiritual leader allegedly manipulated 400 men into removing testicles to be 'closer to God'
The 'sex selfie stick' lets you FaceTime the inside of a vagina
'This is what Islam tells us to do': A rare glimpse inside a Saudi Arabian prison – where Isis terrorists are showered with perks and privileges
New theory could prove how life began and disprove God
'Jihadi John': CAGE representative storms off Sky News accusing Kay Burley of Islamophobia
This is what it's like to be dead, according to a guy who died for a bit
Ukip would cut billions from Scottish budget to fund English tax cuts
Nearly 100,000 of Britain's poorest children go hungry after parents' benefits are cut
End of the licence fee: BBC to back radical overhaul of how it is funded
£20000 - £25000 per annum + commission: SThree: Are you someone that "makes th...
£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Located on the stunning Sandban...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join this w...
£12500 - £13520 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Experienced Hotel Receptionists...