Local and reversible blood-brain barrier disruption by noninvasive focused ultrasound at frequencies suitable for trans-skull sonications

Neuroimage. 2005 Jan 1;24(1):12-20. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2004.06.046.


The purpose of this study was to test the hypothesis that burst ultrasound in the presence of an ultrasound contrast agent can disrupt the blood-brain barrier (BBB) with acoustic parameters suitable for completely noninvasive exposure through the skull. The 10-ms exposures were targeted in the brains of 22 rabbits with a frequency of 690 kHz, a repetition frequency of 1 Hz, and peak rarefactional pressure amplitudes up to 3.1 MPa. The total exposure (sonication) time was 20 s. Prior to each sonication, a bolus of ultrasound contrast agent was injected intravenously. Contrast-enhanced MR images were obtained after the sonications to detect localized BBB disruption via local enhancement in the brain. Brain sections were stained with H&E, TUNEL, and vanadium acid fuchsin (VAF)-toluidine blue staining. In addition, horseradish peroxidase (HRP) was injected into four rabbits prior to sonications and transmission electron microscopy was performed. The MRI contrast enhancement demonstrated BBB disruption at pressure amplitudes starting at 0.4 MPa with approximately 50%; at 0.8 MPa, 90%; and at 1.4 MPa, 100% of the sonicated locations showed enhancement. The histology findings following 4 h survival indicated that brain tissue necrosis was induced in approximately 70-80% of the sonicated locations at a pressure amplitude level of 2.3 MPa or higher. At lower pressure amplitudes, however, small areas of erythrocyte extravasation were seen. The electron microscopy findings demonstrated HRP passage through vessel walls via both transendothelial and paraendothelial routes. These results demonstrate that completely noninvasive focal disruption of the BBB is possible.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / physiology
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / injuries*
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / pathology
  • Brain / pathology
  • Contrast Media
  • Echoencephalography / adverse effects*
  • Extravasation of Diagnostic and Therapeutic Materials / pathology
  • Gadolinium DTPA
  • In Situ Nick-End Labeling
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Male
  • Microscopy, Electron
  • Necrosis
  • Rabbits


  • Contrast Media
  • Gadolinium DTPA