Acoustical Physics

, Volume 49, Issue 4, pp 369–388 | Cite as

Physical mechanisms of the therapeutic effect of ultrasound (a review)

  • M. R. Bailey
  • V. A. Khokhlova
  • O. A. Sapozhnikov
  • S. G. Kargl
  • L. A. Crum


Therapeutic ultrasound is an emerging field with many medical applications. High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) provides the ability to localize the deposition of acoustic energy within the body, which can cause tissue necrosis and hemostasis. Similarly, shock waves from a lithotripter penetrate the body to comminute kidney stones, and transcutaneous ultrasound enhances the transport of chemotherapy agents. New medical applications have required advances in transducer design and advances in numerical and experimental studies of the interaction of sound with biological tissues and fluids. The primary physical mechanism in HIFU is the conversion of acoustic energy into heat, which is often enhanced by nonlinear acoustic propagation and nonlinear scattering from bubbles. Other mechanical effects from ultrasound appear to stimulate an immune response, and bubble dynamics play an important role in lithotripsy and ultrasound-enhanced drug delivery. A dramatic shift to understand and exploit these nonlinear and mechanical mechanisms has occurred over the last few years. Specific challenges remain, such as treatment protocol planning and real-time treatment monitoring. An improved understanding of the physical mechanisms is essential to meet these challenges and to further advance therapeutic ultrasound.


Shock Wave Acoustics Physical Mechanism Medical Application Kidney Stone 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© MAIK "Nauka/Interperiodica" 2003

Authors and Affiliations

  • M. R. Bailey
    • 1
  • V. A. Khokhlova
    • 2
  • O. A. Sapozhnikov
    • 2
  • S. G. Kargl
    • 1
  • L. A. Crum
    • 1
  1. 1.Center for Industrial and Medical Ultrasound, Applied Physics Laboratory, College of Ocean and Fishery ScienceUniversity of WashingtonSeattleUSA
  2. 2.Department of Acoustics, Physics FacultyMoscow State UniversityMoscowRussia

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