High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU)

Focal therapy means treating the part of the prostate with cancer only. The rest of the prostate is left untouched, which means that the delicate nerves and structures essential for erections and bladder control can still function.

HIFU stands for High-Intensity Focused Ultrasound (HIFU). It is the energy force used to eliminate cancer.

How does HIFU work?

Remember how a magnifying glass can focus the sun’s rays to a point? If you put paper close to the magnifying glass, nothing happens, but if you put the paper at the focal point, it will heat up and burn.

The same reasoning is used with HIFU. We are all familiar with ultrasound to look at babies in pregnant women. But did you know we can also focus ultrasound to a point to heat and destroy tissue, especially cancer? The further away tissue is from the focal point, the less affected is the tissue. You can treat areas the size of a grain of rice, so HIFU can be precise.

No cuts or incisions are made. Under a general anaesthetic, a HIFU probe is placed in the back passage to scan the prostate. The urologist fuses the ultrasound images of the prostate with the MRI of the prostate. With this map, the urologist can precisely aim where to treat and what to leave alone. Then, the urologist delivers the treatment. At the end, a catheter is placed in the bladder and removed a few days later.


What are the benefits of a focal therapy by HIFU?

The main benefit is that it is faster and easier to resume a normal or almost normal life after HIFU compared to radiotherapy and prostatectomy. Several studies have shown the side-effect profile HIFU is gentler and easier to tolerate than radiotherapy or prostatectomy. That means that bladder control is almost always preserved and, in most, cases erections as well.

Who is suitable for a HIFU?

Men who have low-risk or intermediate-risk cancer on only one side of the prostate can be suitable for focal therapy by HIFU. There are other important factors too, which need to be considered in a consultation.

How long does it take to recover from a HIFU?

Most men can leave hospital to go home a few hours after treatment or the next day. The catheter is removed usually a few days later, and men can return to work quickly or other matters shortly after that.