Focused ultrasound effects on nerve action potential in vitro

Ultrasound Med Biol. 2009 Oct;35(10):1737-47. doi: 10.1016/j.ultrasmedbio.2009.05.002. Epub 2009 Aug 3.


Minimally invasive applications of thermal and mechanical energy to selective areas of the human anatomy have led to significant advances in treatment of and recovery from typical surgical interventions. Image-guided focused ultrasound allows energy to be deposited deep into the tissue, completely noninvasively. There has long been interest in using this focal energy delivery to block nerve conduction for pain control and local anesthesia. In this study, we have performed an in vitro study to further extend our knowledge of this potential clinical application. The sciatic nerves from the bullfrog (Rana catesbeiana) were subjected to focused ultrasound (at frequencies of 0.661 MHz and 1.986 MHz) and to heated Ringer's solution. The nerve action potential was shown to decrease in the experiments and correlated with temperature elevation measured in the nerve. The action potential recovered either completely, partially or not at all, depending on the parameters of the ultrasound exposure. The reduction of the baseline nerve temperature by circulating cooling fluid through the sonication chamber did not prevent the collapse of the nerve action potential; but higher power was required to induce the same endpoint as without cooling. These results indicate that a thermal mechanism of focused ultrasound can be used to block nerve conduction, either temporarily or permanently.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Action Potentials / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Nerve Block / methods*
  • Neural Conduction / physiology
  • Rana catesbeiana
  • Sciatic Nerve / anatomy & histology
  • Sciatic Nerve / physiology*
  • Sonication / instrumentation
  • Sonication / methods
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / instrumentation
  • Ultrasonic Therapy / methods*