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Ryan Alkins, Yuexi Huang, Dan Pajek and Kullervo Hynynen


Transcranial focused ultrasound is increasingly being investigated as a minimally invasive treatment for a range of intracranial pathologies. At higher peak rarefaction pressures than those used for thermal ablation, focused ultrasound can initiate inertial cavitation and create holes in the brain by fractionation of the tissue elements. The authors investigated the technical feasibility of using MRI-guided focused ultrasound to perform a third ventriculostomy as a possible noninvasive alternative to endoscopic third ventriculostomy for hydrocephalus.


A craniectomy was performed in male pigs weighing 13–19 kg to expose the supratentorial brain, leaving the dura mater intact. Seven pigs were treated through the craniectomy, while 2 pigs were treated through ex vivo human skulls placed in the beam path. Registration and targeting was done using T2-weighted MRI sequences. For transcranial treatments a CT scan was used to correct the beam from aberrations due to the skull and maintain a small, high-intensity focus. Sonications were performed at both 650 kHz and 230 kHz at a range of intensities, and the in situ pressures were estimated both from simulations and experimental data to establish a threshold for tissue fractionation in the brain.


In craniectomized animals at 650 kHz, a peak pressure ≥ 22.7 MPa for 1 second was needed to reliably create a ventriculostomy. Transcranially at this frequency the ExAblate 4000 was unable to generate the required intensity to fractionate tissue, although cavitation was initiated. At 230 kHz, ventriculostomy was successful through the skull with a peak pressure of 8.8 MPa.


This is the first study to suggest that it is possible to perform a completely noninvasive third ventriculostomy using ultrasound. This may pave the way for future studies and eventually provide an alternative means for the creation of CSF communications in the brain, including perforation of the septum pellucidum or intraventricular membranes.

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Kullervo Hynynen, Nathan McDannold, Natalia Vykhodtseva, Scott Raymond, Ralph Weissleder, Ferenc A. Jolesz and Nickolai Sheikov


The goal of this study was to explore the feasibility of using low-frequency magnetic resonance (MR) image–guided focused ultrasound as a noninvasive method for the temporary disruption of the blood–brain barrier (BBB) at targeted locations.


Rabbits were placed inside a clinical 1.5-tesla MR imaging unit, and sites in their brains were targeted for 20-second burst sonications (frequency 260 kHz). The peak pressure amplitude during the burst varied between 0.1 and 0.9 MPa. Each sonication was performed after an intravenous injection of an ultrasound contrast agent (Optison). The disruption of the BBB was evaluated with the aid of an injection of an MR imaging contrast agent (MAG-NEVIST). Additional tests involving the use of MION-47, a 20-nm magnetic nanoparticle contrast agent, were also performed. The animals were killed at different time points between 3 minutes and 5 weeks postsonication, after which light or electron microscopic evaluation was performed.

The threshold for BBB disruption was approximately 0.2 MPa. More than 80% of the brain sites sonicated showed BBB disruption when the pressure amplitude was 0.3 MPa; at 0.4 MPa, this percentage was greater than 90%. Tissue necrosis, ischemia, and apoptosis were not found in tissue in which the pressure amplitude was less than 0.4 MPa; however, in a few areas of brain tissue erythrocytes were identified outside blood vessels following exposures of 0.4 MPa or higher. Survival experiments did not show any long-term adverse events.


These results demonstrate that low-frequency ultrasound bursts can induce local, reversible disruption of the BBB without undesired long-term effects. This technique offers a potential noninvasive method for targeted drug delivery in the brain aided by a relatively simple low-frequency device.

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Arnold B. Etame, Roberto J. Diaz, Christian A. Smith, Todd G. Mainprize, Kullervo Hynynen and James T. Rutka

Recent advances in molecular neurooncology provide unique opportunities for targeted molecular-based therapies. However, the blood-brain barrier (BBB) remains a major limitation to the delivery of tumor-specific therapies directed against aberrant signaling pathways in brain tumors. Given the dismal prognosis of patients with malignant brain tumors, novel strategies that overcome the intrinsic limitations of the BBB are therefore highly desirable. Focused ultrasound BBB disruption is emerging as a novel strategy for enhanced delivery of therapeutic agents into the brain via focal, reversible, and safe BBB disruption. This review examines the potential role and implications of focused ultrasound in molecular neurooncology.

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Michael L. Schwartz, Robert Yeung, Yuexi Huang, Nir Lipsman, Vibhor Krishna, Jennifer D. Jain, Martin G. Chapman, Andres M. Lozano and Kullervo Hynynen


One patient for whom an MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) pallidotomy was attempted was discovered to have multiple new skull lesions with the appearance of infarcts on the MRI scan 3 months after his attempted treatment. The authors conducted a retrospective review of the first 30 patients treated with MRgFUS to determine the incidence of skull lesions in patients undergoing these procedures and to consider possible causes.


A retrospective review of the MRI scans of the first 30 patients, 1 attempted pallidotomy and 29 ventral intermediate nucleus thalamotomies, was conducted. The correlation of the mean skull density ratio (SDR) and the maximum energy applied in the production or attempted production of a brain lesion was examined.


Of 30 patients treated with MRgFUS for movement disorders, 7 were found to have new skull lesions that were not present prior to treatment and not visible on the posttreatment day 1 MRI scan. Discomfort was reported at the time of treatment by some patients with and without skull lesions. All patients with skull lesions were completely asymptomatic. There was no correlation between the mean SDR and the presence or absence of skull lesions, but the maximum energy applied with the Exablate system was significantly greater in patients with skull lesions than in those without.


It is known that local skull density, thickness, and SDR vary from location to location. Sufficient energy transfer resulting in local heating sufficient to produce a bone lesion may occur in regions of low SDR. A correlation of lesion location and local skull properties should be made in future studies.