High-Frequency Ultrasound (HIFU)

Targeted sound waves that heat and destroy prostate cancer tissue with minimal side effects

HIFU uses focused, intense heat to destroy prostate cancer. Sound waves kill cancer cells without the use of radiation or incisions. HIFU also helps men avoid common side effects like urinary incontinence and erectile dysfunction.

HIFU treatment is like using a magnifying glass to intensely heat an area with sunlight. Ultrasound waves are the energy source, and high heat burns the cancerous tissues.

HIFU procedures generally last two to three hours as outpatient procedures. During treatment, your physician:

  1. Places a probe in your rectum
  2. Focuses high-energy ultrasound waves on your prostate while monitoring the treatment area

As a targeted therapy, HIFU treats cancer only within your prostate, which minimizes side effects. Doctors can preserve the muscles, nerves and body structures responsible for nearby bodily functions.

Are You a Candidate for HIFU?

HIFU is best for people with intermediate-risk (Grade 2) prostate cancer that hasn’t spread and is limited to one area of the prostate. Your urologist will help you understand your specific risks and treatment goals to help you make the best decision for you.

We don’t recommend HIFU for cancer that:

  • Has spread beyond the prostate gland or into lymph nodes
  • Is large or involves both sides of the prostate

In these situations, whole-gland therapies, such as prostatectomy or radiation, may be best.

HIFU Prostate Cancer Treatment at IU Health

IU School of Medicine physicists and engineers — with help from IU Health surgeons — pioneered HIFU treatment for prostate cancer in the 1990s. Since then, we have made it even more effective. We remain leaders today in improving and administering this minimally invasive treatment.

As one of the first training centers in the U.S., we teach doctors nationwide how to perform HIFU. We are also one of the highest-volume HIFU centers in the country. Our urologists bring this unparalleled expertise and experience to your treatment. We also offer:

Access to clinical trials

Our prostate cancer specialists conduct clinical trials at the IU Health Academic Health Center. One trial involves using PSMA PET imaging in addition to MRI scans to plan HIFU treatments. PSMA PET imaging helps doctors more accurately target and destroy cancerous tissue while saving surrounding healthy tissue and nerves.

Treatment tailored to you

Some patients with prostate cancer have their entire prostate removed or radiated — even if the cancer is small or hasn’t spread. Using sophisticated imaging, our doctors are able to create treatment plans that are specific to your needs. This approach helps reduce stress and minimize side effects.

What to Expect During HIFU

HIFU treatment is like using a magnifying glass to intensely heat an area with sunlight. Ultrasound waves are the energy source, and high heat burns the cancerous tissues.

HIFU procedures generally last two to three hours as outpatient procedures. During treatment, your physician:

  1. Places a probe in your rectum
  2. Focuses high-energy ultrasound waves on your prostate while monitoring the treatment area

As a targeted therapy, HIFU treats cancer only within your prostate, which minimizes side effects. Doctors can preserve the muscles, nerves and body structures responsible for nearby bodily functions.

Are You a Candidate for HIFU?

HIFU is best for people with intermediate-risk (Grade 2) prostate cancer that hasn’t spread and is limited to one area of the prostate. Your urologist will help you understand your specific risks and treatment goals to help you make the best decision for you.

We don’t recommend HIFU for cancer that:

  • Has spread beyond the prostate gland or into lymph nodes
  • Is large or involves both sides of the prostate

In these situations, whole-gland therapies, such as prostatectomy or radiation, may be best.

HIFU Prostate Cancer Treatment at IU Health

IU School of Medicine physicists and engineers — with help from IU Health surgeons — pioneered HIFU treatment for prostate cancer in the 1990s. Since then, we have made it even more effective. We remain leaders today in improving and administering this minimally invasive treatment.

As one of the first training centers in the U.S., we teach doctors nationwide how to perform HIFU. We are also one of the highest-volume HIFU centers in the country. Our urologists bring this unparalleled expertise and experience to your treatment. We also offer:

Access to clinical trials

Our prostate cancer specialists conduct clinical trials at the IU Health Academic Health Center. One trial involves using PSMA PET imaging in addition to MRI scans to plan HIFU treatments. PSMA PET imaging helps doctors more accurately target and destroy cancerous tissue while saving surrounding healthy tissue and nerves.

Treatment tailored to you

Some patients with prostate cancer have their entire prostate removed or radiated — even if the cancer is small or hasn’t spread. Using sophisticated imaging, our doctors are able to create treatment plans that are specific to your needs. This approach helps reduce stress and minimize side effects.

Before your procedure, you’ll receive instructions for a bowel preparation to clear out your intestines. The prep is similar to what you would do for a colonoscopy.

Preparing for HIFU

Before your procedure, you’ll receive instructions for a bowel preparation to clear out your intestines. The prep is similar to what you would do for a colonoscopy.

After this prostate cancer treatment:

  • You should not feel any pain from the treatment.
  • You have to use a catheter (a long, thin tube) for three days to help you urinate due to swelling in your prostate.
  • You need to take only a week off of work, if necessary.
  • We check your PSA levels periodically. After HIFU, they should go down significantly and then remain stable with only slow rises for the rest of your life.
  • We perform another biopsy six months after your treatment to make sure the cancer is gone.

Around 80% of patients see good outcomes from HIFU treatment. The remaining 20% may need more treatment, which may include HIFU again, surgery or radiation.

After HIFU Treatment

After this prostate cancer treatment:

  • You should not feel any pain from the treatment.
  • You have to use a catheter (a long, thin tube) for three days to help you urinate due to swelling in your prostate.
  • You need to take only a week off of work, if necessary.
  • We check your PSA levels periodically. After HIFU, they should go down significantly and then remain stable with only slow rises for the rest of your life.
  • We perform another biopsy six months after your treatment to make sure the cancer is gone.

Around 80% of patients see good outcomes from HIFU treatment. The remaining 20% may need more treatment, which may include HIFU again, surgery or radiation.

Is HIFU covered by insurance?

Insurance companies do not cover HIFU procedures for the initial treatment of prostate cancer. Medicare covers the costs of HIFU to treat cancer that has returned in the prostate after radiation therapy to the prostate.

What are the side effects of HIFU?

The risk of urinary leakage or incontinence is less than 1%. The risk of significant erectile dysfunction is less than 5%.

Is HIFU approved by the FDA?

HIFU was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015 to remove prostate tissue. It has not been approved to treat prostate cancer and is considered investigational in the United States. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, HIFU may be a treatment option for you through a clinical trial. Your doctor can help you understand your eligibility and address any questions you may have.

Frequently Asked Questions About HIFU

Is HIFU covered by insurance?

Insurance companies do not cover HIFU procedures for the initial treatment of prostate cancer. Medicare covers the costs of HIFU to treat cancer that has returned in the prostate after radiation therapy to the prostate.

What are the side effects of HIFU?

The risk of urinary leakage or incontinence is less than 1%. The risk of significant erectile dysfunction is less than 5%.

Is HIFU approved by the FDA?

HIFU was approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2015 to remove prostate tissue. It has not been approved to treat prostate cancer and is considered investigational in the United States. If you have been diagnosed with prostate cancer, HIFU may be a treatment option for you through a clinical trial. Your doctor can help you understand your eligibility and address any questions you may have.

Patient Stories for High-Frequency Ultrasound (HIFU)

Prostate Cancer Foundation

The Prostate Cancer Foundation website provides in-depth information about prostate cancer and its treatment. It also has an extensive list of support resources for men with prostate cancer.

Us Too

Us Too, a national advocacy and information organization, dedicates itself to helping men with prostate cancer. Among this website’s resources include links to online and in-person support for men with prostate cancer and their families.

Resources

Prostate Cancer Foundation

The Prostate Cancer Foundation website provides in-depth information about prostate cancer and its treatment. It also has an extensive list of support resources for men with prostate cancer.

Us Too

Us Too, a national advocacy and information organization, dedicates itself to helping men with prostate cancer. Among this website’s resources include links to online and in-person support for men with prostate cancer and their families.