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Zhiyuan Xu, Carissa Carlson, John Snell, Matt Eames, Arik Hananel, M. Beatriz Lopes, Prashant Raghavan, Cheng-Chia Lee, Chun-Po Yen, David Schlesinger, Neal F. Kassell, Jean-Francois Aubry, and Jason Sheehan


In biological tissues, it is known that the creation of gas bubbles (cavitation) during ultrasound exposure is more likely to occur at lower rather than higher frequencies. Upon collapsing, such bubbles can induce hemorrhage. Thus, acoustic inertial cavitation secondary to a 220-kHz MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) surgery is a serious safety issue, and animal studies are mandatory for laying the groundwork for the use of low-frequency systems in future clinical trials. The authors investigate here the in vivo potential thresholds of MRgFUS-induced inertial cavitation and MRgFUS-induced thermal coagulation using MRI, acoustic spectroscopy, and histology.


Ten female piglets that had undergone a craniectomy were sonicated using a 220-kHz transcranial MRgFUS system over an acoustic energy range of 5600–14,000 J. For each piglet, a long-duration sonication (40-second duration) was performed on the right thalamus, and a short sonication (20-second duration) was performed on the left thalamus. An acoustic power range of 140–300 W was used for long-duration sonications and 300–700 W for short-duration sonications. Signals collected by 2 passive cavitation detectors were stored in memory during each sonication, and any subsequent cavitation activity was integrated within the bandwidth of the detectors. Real-time 2D MR thermometry was performed during the sonications. T1-weighted, T2-weighted, gradient-recalled echo, and diffusion-weighted imaging MRI was performed after treatment to assess the lesions. The piglets were killed immediately after the last series of posttreatment MR images were obtained. Their brains were harvested, and histological examinations were then performed to further evaluate the lesions.


Two types of lesions were induced: thermal ablation lesions, as evidenced by an acute ischemic infarction on MRI and histology, and hemorrhagic lesions, associated with inertial cavitation. Passive cavitation signals exhibited 3 main patterns identified as follows: no cavitation, stable cavitation, and inertial cavitation. Low-power and longer sonications induced only thermal lesions, with a peak temperature threshold for lesioning of 53°C. Hemorrhagic lesions occurred only with high-power and shorter sonications. The sizes of the hemorrhages measured on macroscopic histological examinations correlated with the intensity of the cavitation activity (R2 = 0.74). The acoustic cavitation activity detected by the passive cavitation detectors exhibited a threshold of 0.09 V·Hz for the occurrence of hemorrhages.


This work demonstrates that 220-kHz ultrasound is capable of inducing a thermal lesion in the brain of living swines without hemorrhage. Although the same acoustic energy can induce either a hemorrhage or a thermal lesion, it seems that low-power, long-duration sonication is less likely to cause hemorrhage and may be safer. Although further study is needed to decrease the likelihood of ischemic infarction associated with the 220-kHz ultrasound, the threshold established in this work may allow for the detection and prevention of deleterious cavitations.

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Stephen J. Monteith, Sagi Harnof, Ricky Medel, Britney Popp, Max Wintermark, M. Beatriz S. Lopes, Neal F. Kassell, W. Jeff Elias, John Snell, Matthew Eames, Eyal Zadicario, Krisztina Moldovan, and Jason Sheehan


Intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) is a major cause of death and disability throughout the world. Surgical techniques are limited by their invasive nature and the associated disability caused during clot removal. Preliminary data have shown promise for the feasibility of transcranial MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) sonothrombolysis in liquefying the clotted blood in ICH and thereby facilitating minimally invasive evacuation of the clot via a twist-drill craniostomy and aspiration tube.

Methods and Results

In an in vitro model, the following optimum transcranial sonothrombolysis parameters were determined: transducer center frequency 230 kHz, power 3950 W, pulse repetition rate 1 kHz, duty cycle 10%, and sonication duration 30 seconds. Safety studies were performed in swine (n = 20). In a swine model of ICH, MRgFUS sonothrombolysis of 4 ml ICH was performed. Magnetic resonance imaging and histological examination demonstrated complete lysis of the ICH without additional brain injury, blood-brain barrier breakdown, or thermal necrosis due to sonothrombolysis. A novel cadaveric model of ICH was developed with 40-ml clots implanted into fresh cadaveric brains (n = 10). Intracerebral hemorrhages were successfully liquefied (> 95%) with transcranial MRgFUS in a highly accurate fashion, permitting minimally invasive aspiration of the lysate under MRI guidance.


The feasibility of transcranial MRgFUS sonothrombolysis was demonstrated in in vitro and cadaveric models of ICH. Initial in vivo safety data in a swine model of ICH suggest the process to be safe. Minimally invasive treatment of ICH with MRgFUS warrants evaluation in the setting of a clinical trial.

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Stephen Monteith, Jason Sheehan, Ricky Medel, Max Wintermark, Matthew Eames, John Snell, Neal F. Kassell, and W. Jeff Elias

Magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound surgery (MRgFUS) has the potential to create a shift in the treatment paradigm of several intracranial disorders. High-resolution MRI guidance combined with an accurate method of delivering high doses of transcranial ultrasound energy to a discrete focal point has led to the exploration of noninvasive treatments for diseases traditionally treated by invasive surgical procedures. In this review, the authors examine the current intracranial applications under investigation and explore other potential uses for MRgFUS in the intracranial space based on their initial cadaveric studies.