What is HIFU?
HIFU is a revolutionary high tech, noninvasive, approach to treating prostate cancer that uses focused sound waves to precisely destroy or ablate prostate tissue. HIFU pros and cons are listed below.
The technology has been under development for 30 years and was first used in Europe to treat prostate cancer in 1995. Numerous published studies have established that HIFU can effectively ablate (kill ) prostate tissue and the FDA granted regulatory approval to the Sonablate and Ablatherm HIFU devices in 2015 for prostate tissue ablation. Please note that as of April 2019, the only approved HIFU devices in the USA are the Sonablate (SonaCare Medical) and the Ablatherm or Focal One ( EDAP -USA).
Summary of HIFU pros & cons:
These are the Pros or advantages of HIFU treatment for prostate cancer:
- Noninvasive, radiation-free treatment.
- Allows precise, MRI Fusion guided ultrasound energy delivery to the prostate
- Outpatient treatment
- No incisions and rapid recovery
- If cancer returns, surgery, radiation, or additional HIFU treatment is possible.
- Focal or partial treatment of the prostate is possible guided by MRI mapping and energy modulation (Scionti MMM, triple M HIFU)
- Very Low Risk for urinary leakage problems
- Excellent preservation of erectile and sexual function
- Medicare coverage for the facility is available, greatly reducing out of pocket costs for Medicare patients
These are the Cons or disadvantages of HIFU treatment for prostate cancer:
- Most US urologists are still relatively unfamiliar with HIFU as it was approved in the USA recently (October 2015)
- Research studies and results are only published out to 15 years of follow up, so longer term outcomes , beyond 15 years are unclear.
- Not every man is a candidate and factors such as prostate size, extent of cancer, and the presence of stones in the prostate can affect success rates.
- HIFU requires significant physician training and experience in order to get good results. Very few US urologists have significant experience with this treatment
- Some patients require a prostate reduction procedure such as prostate channel opening or vaporization prior to HIFU (modified outpatient TURP)
- HIFU is not widely available as there are very few HIFU specialty centers in the USA, therefore, most patients will have to travel to a center of excellence in order to have safe, effective treatment.
- HIFU is NOT covered by all insurance plans. Although financing is easily arranged, HIFU has "out of pocket" medical expenses for many men.