What is HIFU?
High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is a non-invasive therapeutic technique that uses non-ionizing ultrasonic waves to heat tissue. HIFU can be used to increase the flow of blood or lymph, or to destroy tissue, such as tumors, through a number of mechanisms. The technology can be used to treat a range of disorders and as of 2015 is at various stages of development and commercialization.
The technology is similar to ultrasonic imaging, although lower frequencies and continuous, rather than pulsed waves are used to achieve the necessary thermal doses. However, pulsed waves may also be used if mechanical rather than thermal damage is desired. Acoustic lenses are often used to achieve the necessary intensity at the target tissue without damaging the surrounding tissue. An analogy is using a magnifying glass to focus sunlight; only the focal point of the magnifying glass has high intensity. Although lenses have traditionally been used, phased arrays are increasingly common as they allow the focal position to be easily changed.
HIFU may be combined with other imaging techniques such as medical ultrasound or MRI to enable guidance of the treatment and monitoring.
HIFU uses focused ultrasound energy to target the layers of skin just below the surface. The ultrasound energy causes the tissue to heat up rapidly.
Once the cells in the targeted area reach a certain temperature, they experience cellular damage. While this may seem counterintuitive, the damage actually stimulates the cells to produce more collagen — a protein that provides structure to the skin.
The increase in collagen results in tighter, firmer skinTrusted Source with fewer wrinkles. Since the high-frequency ultrasound beams are focused on a specific tissue site below the skin’s surface, there’s no damage to the upper layers of the skin and adjacent issue.
HIFU may not be appropriate for everyone. In general, the procedure works best on people older than 30 with mild-to-moderate skin laxity.
People with photodamaged skin or a high degree of loose skin may need several treatments before seeing results.
Older people with more extensive photo-aging, severe skin laxity, or very saggy skin on the neck aren’t good candidates and may need surgery.
HIFU isn’t recommended for people with infections and open skin lesions at the target area, severe or cystic acne, and metallic implants in the treatment area.
Benefits of high-intensity focused ultrasound
According to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS), HIFU and other nonsurgical alternatives to facelifts have seen a major increase in popularity over the last few years. The total number of procedures performed has increased 64.8 percent between 2012 and 2017.
HIFU has many aesthetic benefits, including:
- wrinkle reduction
- tightening sagging skin on the neck (sometimes called turkey neck)
- lifting the cheeks, eyebrows, and eyelids
- enhancing jawline definition
- tightening of the décolletage
- smoothing the skin
Study results are promising. A 2017 study involving 32 Korean people showed that HIFU significantly improved skin elasticity of the cheeks, lower abdomen, and thighs after 12 weeks.
In a larger study of 93 people, 66 percent of those treated with HIFU perceived an improvement in the appearance of their face and neck after 90 days.
What does HIFU feel like?
You may experience slight discomfort during an HIFU procedure. Some people describe it as tiny electric pulses or a light prickly sensation.
If you’re worried about pain, your doctor may suggest taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), such as ibuprofen (Advil), prior to treatment.
Immediately after the treatment, you may experience mild redness or swelling, which will gradually recede over the next few hours.
HIFU for face procedure
There’s no special preparation needed before having an HIFU procedure. You should remove all makeup and skin care products from the target area before treatment.
Here’s what to expect at your appointment:
1. A physician or technician first cleans the target area.
2. They may apply a topical anesthetic cream before starting.
3. The physician or technician then applies an ultrasound gel.
4. The HIFU device is placed against the skin.
5. Using an ultrasound viewer, the physician or technician adjusts the device to the right setting.
6. Ultrasound energy is then delivered to the target area in short pulses for roughly 30 to 90 minutes.
7. The device is removed.
If additional treatments are needed, you will schedule the next treatment.
While the ultrasound energy is being applied, you might feel heat and tingling. You can take a pain medication if it’s bothersome.
You’re free to go home and resume your normal daily activities right away after the procedure.
HIFU treatment for face side effects
HIFU is considered very safe if performed by a trained and qualified professional.
The best part about this treatment is that you’re able to resume your normal activities immediately after you leave the provider’s office. Some slight redness or swelling may occur, but it should subside quickly. A light tingling sensation of the treated area may persist for a few weeks.
Rarely, you may experience temporary numbness or bruising, but these side effects usually go away after a few days.
HIFU is considered a safe, effective, and noninvasive procedure for tightening the facial skin.
Its advantages over a surgical face lift are hard to deny. There are no incisions, no scarring, and no required rest or recovery time. HIFU is also far less expensive than a face lift.
Most people see full results three months after their final treatment.
If you’re looking for a treatment that is quick, painless, and noninvasive, HIFU is an excellent option compared to a surgical face lift.
Of course, HIFU isn’t a miracle cure for aging. The procedure is best suited for patients with mild-to-moderate skin laxity, and you may need to have the procedure repeated in one to two years as the natural aging process takes over.
If you’re older with more severe skin sagging and wrinkles, HIFU may not be able to eliminate these skin issues.
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