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Extracorporeal shock wave lithotripsy (ESWL) is a form of ultrasound used to break up kidney stones and gallbladder stones. In many cases, the patient is given some sedation or pain medication as the high intensity waves needed to fracture the stones can cause discomfort. This technique is used often to treat stone formation.
A few physicians use HIFU (high intensity focused ultrasound) to treat cancer, while others use ultrasound for targeted drug delivery, hemostasis or thrombolysis. However, these techniques are not widely available and are still being evaluated for efficacy.
Ultrasound is often used to treat musculoskeletal injuries, and is frequently used to treat sports injuries. For example, plantar fasciitis and tendinitis are commonly treated using therapeutic ultrasound. It is believed to help reduce inflammation and increase blood flow to affected areas. However, there is little evidence that tissue therapeutic ultrasound is effective. More study is needed.
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