Ultrasound Ablation in Neurosurgery: Current Clinical Applications and Future Perspectives

Neurosurgery 87:1–10, 2020

The concept of focusing high-intensity ultrasound beams for the purpose of cerebral ablation has interested neurosurgeons for more than 70 yr. However, the need for a craniectomy or a cranial acoustic window hindered the clinical diffusion of this technique.

Recent technological advances, including the development of phased-array transducers and magnetic resonance imaging technology, have rekindled the interest in ultrasound for ablative brain surgery and have led to the development of the transcranial magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) thermal ablation procedure. In the last decade, this method has become increasingly popular, and its clinical applications are broadening.

Despite the demonstrated efficacy of MRgFUS, transcranial thermal ablation using ultrasound is limited in that it can target exclusively the central region of the brain where the multiple acoustic beams are most optimally focused. On the contrary, lesioning of the cortex, the superficial subcortical areas, and regions close to the skull base is not possible with the limited treatment envelope of current phased-array transducers.

Therefore, new ultrasound ablative techniques, which are not based on thermal mechanisms, have been developed and tested in experimental settings. This review describes the mechanisms by which these novel, nonthermal ablative techniques are based and also presents the current clinical applications of MRgFUS thermal ablation.