Three potential mechanisms for failure of high intensity focused ultrasound ablation in cardiac tissue

Jacob I. Laughner, Matthew S. Sulkin, Ziqi Wu, Cheri X. Deng, Igor R. Efimov*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


Background-High intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) has been introduced for treatment of cardiac arrhythmias because it offers the ability to create rapid tissue modification in confined volumes without directly contacting the myocardium. In spite of the benefits of HIFU, a number of limitations have been reported, which hindered its clinical adoption. Methods and Results-In this study, we used a multimodal approach to evaluate thermal and nonthermal effects of HIFU in cardiac ablation. We designed a computer controlled system capable of simultaneous fluorescence mapping and HIFU ablation. Using this system, linear lesions were created in isolated rabbit atria (n=6), and point lesions were created in the ventricles of whole-heart (n=6) preparations by applying HIFU at clinical doses (4-16 W). Additionally, we evaluate the gap size in ablation lines necessary for conduction in atrial preparations (n=4). The voltage sensitive dye di-4-ANEPPS was used to assess functional damage produced by HIFU. Optical coherence tomography and general histology were used to evaluate lesion extent. Conduction block was achieved in 1 (17%) of 6 atrial preparations with a single ablation line. Following 10 minutes of rest, 0 (0%) of 6 atrial preparations demonstrated sustained conduction block from a single ablation line. Tissue displacement of 1 to 3 mm was observed during HIFU application due to acoustic radiation force along the lesion line. Additionally, excessive acoustic pressure and high temperature from HIFU generated cavitation, causing macroscopic tissue damage. A minimum gap size of 1.5 mm was found to conduct electric activity. Conclusions-This study identified 3 potential mechanisms responsible for the failure of HIFU ablation in cardiac tissues. Both acoustic radiation force and acoustic cavitation, in conjunction with inconsistent thermal deposition, can increase the risk of lesion discontinuity and result in gap sizes that promote ablation failure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)409-416
Number of pages8
JournalCirculation: Arrhythmia and Electrophysiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2012


  • Ablation
  • Acoustic radiation force
  • Cardiac arrhythmias
  • Cavitation
  • High intensity focused ultrasound
  • Thermal effect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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