Since its introduction into medicine some 25 years ago ultrasonics has made great strides in both the diagnostic and therapeutic fields and is being used to an ever increasing extent in clinical medicine. The reasons for this are two-fold; first, it often provides information regarding tissue structure that is not obtainable during the life of the patient by any other diagnostic technique, and second, conventional radiological techniques have proven to be more hazardous than was believed previously. Thus, for instance, using rather simple pulse-echo techniques, in ophthalmology it is possible to measure the dimensions of the various components of the eye more accurately than is possible using light and it is possible to detect conditions such as detachment of the retina even when obscured by a hemorrhage in structures lying in front of it; in cardiology it is possible to diagnose accumulation of fluid in the pericardial sac or the structural and functional state of several valves of the heart; and in obstetrics it is possible to diagnose pregnancy in the presence of fibroid tumors of the uterus. Thus, in fact, virtually no organ is inaccessible to ultrasonic examination. In addition to the pulse-echo techniques, ultrasonic Doppler methods are also used extensively for detection of movement such as pulsations in blood vessels. This enables detection of pregnancy as soon as the fetal heart is accessible to ultrasonic examination; or diagnosis of thrombosis (blockage) of veins deep in the leg.

In all these applications, as far as is known, no irreversible or permanent alterations are produced in the tissues as a result of their irradiation with ultrasound. On the contrary, it is the beam of ultrasound that is modified by its passage through the tissues and the type and extent of this alteration yields information on organ structure. At higher ultrasonic intensities (and dosages) however, tissues cannot completely recover from the effects of ultrasonic irradiation and permanent structural result. Ultrasound at such intensity levels is therefore used for therapeutic purposes such as in the treatment of Ménière’s Disease where ultrasonic surgery is the treatment of choice and can alleviate the illness without producing deafness. Another such application is the surgery of the cataract of the eye. For these diagnostic and therapeutic applications ultrasound is used at frequencies of about 1 to 10MHz. At lower frequencies it is used extensively for disruption of cell walls for extraction of thermolabile intracellular ingredients. A discussion of all the current applications, their underlying physical principles, and instrumentation can be found in some of the general texts [1–4] and specialized publications [5–8]. A brief outline is presented here of some of the work currently being conducted in the author’s laboratory. We deal first with the development of focused ultrasound as a surgical tool for clinical and research use.


Grey Matter Radiation Pressure Ultrasonic Irradiation Focus Ultrasound Ultrasonic Energy 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1975

Authors and Affiliations

  • Padmakar P. Lele
    • 1
  1. 1.Departments of Mechanical Engineering and Nutrition and Food Science Laboratory of Experimental Medicine, 26-023Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeUSA

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