High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a form of thermal ablation technique, which can treat a variety of medical afflictions. One promising therapeutic use is the permanent destruction of nerves non-invasively in patients with severe spasticity or certain types of pain (e.g., phantom limb pain). To this end, HIFU requires ultrasound guidance, which allows the non-invasive, target-specific deposition of thermal energy to the targeted nerve, thereby blocking axonal conduction. In this paper, a composite system comprising both ultrasound-imaging and HIFU therapy was developed and used to induce localized non-invasive nerve blockage in an in vivo large animal study. Five pigs were used with the femoral nerve as the target. Calibrated needle thermocouples inserted at the target site were employed to monitor the target tissue temperature. The degree of nerve blockage was assessed by measuring compound action potential (CAP) signal with a clinical nerve electrophysiology system before and after HIFU exposures. An average CAP signal amplitude reduction of 49% of baseline with a standard deviation of 9% was observed after 20–30 min post exposure. These results demonstrate the feasibility of the proposed ultrasound-guided HIFU modality as a potential non-invasive nerve ablation method.
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