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Biological effects of ultrasound

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Lawrence W.
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  1. Introduction
  2. Mechanisms of interaction with biological tissue and resulting bioeffects
    1. The physical mechanism
    2. Biologically significant effect of ultrasound
    3. Diagnostic ultrasound
    4. The second mechanism
  3. Conclusion
  4. References

Medical sonography, high intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU), and ultrasound-enhanced systemic thrombolysis are just three of the medical applications of the natural phenomenon of ?ultrasound,' high frequency sound waves that are undetectable to the human ear. Ultrasound waves have a number of physical and dynamic properties that make them suitable for both diagnostic and therapeutic applications in medicine. This report will describe these properties underlying ultrasound technology. Then it will go on to describe the mechanisms of interaction between ultrasound waves and the biological tissue that they pass through, and it will discuss some of the bioeffects that result from these interactions.Ultrasound technology in medical diagnostics dates back to the late 1940's, while its use in therapeutic settings dates back even earlier to the 1920's. (http://www.ob- ultrasound.net/history1.html) Medical ultrasound technology is made possible by discoveries in navigation by sound (SONAR) and the discovery in 1880 of the piezo-electric effect by Pierre and Jacques Curie.

[...] (Bamber, 1998: 64-72) Mechanisms of Interaction with Biological Tissue and Resulting Bioeffects The physical mechanism that makes ultrasound technology suitable for diagnosing and treating various medical conditions has a number of effects on biological tissue. While most of the effects that ultrasound has on biological tissues are innocuous, some high intensity doses of ultrasound waves can pose a danger. Primary mechanisms of concern in ultrasound diagnostic technology include heating and cavitation. While in some instances, these effects are actively sought out for their therapeutic properties, in a diagnostic capacity they are to be avoided. [...]


[...] Some of the unique dangers associated with ultrasound diagnostics have also been examined, such as thermal effects on living tissue and cavitation of microbubbles in the living medium leading to mechanical stress or damage to surrounding cellular structures. While these dangers have been shown to be clinically significant (Karagöz, Biri, Babacan, & Kavutçu, 2006), and other researchers have pointed out the importance of understanding the exponential relationship between temperature and time of exposure in ultrasound examinations (Church, 2007), it could be argued that the adverse effects on living tissues caused by thermal and cavitation mechanisms do not pose nearly as much of a danger as other imaging methods, especially those involving electromagnetic radiation. [...]


[...] (Haar, 115) The way in which ultrasound helps to do this is thought to be by making the stratum corneum of the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin) more permeable through sonic cavitation, but lack of research in the field has meant that this explanation is inconclusive. A similar therapeutic treatment involving ultrasound is sonoporation, the use of ultrasound to temporarily alter the surface of cell membranes, thereby allowing the transport of molecules that would otherwise be unable to cross. [...]

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