BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee Medical Policy Manual

MRI-Guided Focused Ultrasound (MRgFUS)


MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) is a noninvasive treatment that combines two technologies: focused ultrasound (US) and MRI.  This technology may also be referred to as magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity ultrasound ablation (e.g., ExAblate®). The US beam penetrates through the soft tissues and, using MRI for guidance and monitoring, the beam can be focused on targeted sites.  The US causes a local increase in temperature in the target tissue resulting in coagulation necrosis while sparing the surrounding normal structures.  In addition to providing guidance, the associated MRI can provide online thermometric imaging that provides a temperature “map” that can further confirm the therapeutic effect of the ablation treatment and allow for real-time adjustment of the treatment parameters. The integrated system is proposed as a noninvasive therapy for pain palliation of bone metastases and uterine fibroids.  MRgFUS is being investigated for the treatment of other benign and malignant tumors.

Metastatic bone disease is one of the most common causes of cancer pain.  Existing treatments include conservative measures (e.g., massage, exercise) and pharmacologic agents (e.g., analgesics, bisphosphonates, and corticosteroids).  External beam radiotherapy is standard of care for individuals who fail these treatments; however, a substantial proportion of individuals experience residual pain after radiotherapy.  MRgFUS is used to destroy nerves in the bone surface surrounding the tumor in individuals who either fail or are not candidates for radiotherapy.





There is evidence from a sham-controlled, randomized trial that MRI-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) improves the health outcome for adults with painful bone metastases who failed or are unsuitable for radiotherapy treatment.  There is insufficient evidence from randomized controlled trials or other controlled studies that MRgFUS improves the health outcome for individuals with any other clinical condition.


American Society for Radiation Oncology. (2017). Palliative radiotherapy for bone metastases: Update of an ASTRO evidence-based guideline. Practical Radiation Oncology, 4-12. Retrieved March 1, 2017 from

BlueCross BlueShield Association. Evidence Positioning System. (7:2018). Magnetic resonance imaging-guided focused ultrasound (7.01.109). Retrieved February 4, 2019 from (31 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

ECRI Institute. Health Technology Assessment Information Service. Product Brief. (2017, June). ExAblate Neuro (InSightec, Inc.) for treating essential tremor. Retrieved February 4, 2019 from ECRI Institute. (11 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

ECRI Institute. Health Technology Information Service. Emerging Technology Evidence Report. (2014, August). Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound for palliating pain from bone metastases. Retrieved October 8, 2014 from ECRI Institute. (91 articles and/or guidelines reviewed)

Elias, W., Lipsman, N., Ondo, W., Ghanouni, P., Kim, Y., Lee, W., et al. (2016, August). A randomized trial of focused ultrasound thalamotomy for essential tremor. New England Journal of Medicine, 375 (8), 730-739. Abstract retrieved July 24, 2018 from PubMed database.

Geiger, D., Napoli, A., Conchiglia, A., Gregori, L. M., Arrigoni, F., Bazzocchi, A., et al. (2014). MR-guided focused ultrasound (MRgFUS) ablation for the treatment of nonspinal osteoid osteoma: a prospective multicenter evaluation. Journal of Bone and Joint Surgery, 96 (9), 743-751. Abstract retrieved May 5, 2016 from PubMed database.

Hurwitz, M., Ghanouni, P., Kanaev, S., Iozeffi, D., Gianfelice, D., et al. (2014). Magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound for patients with painful bone metastases: phase III trial results. Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 106 (5). (Level 2 evidence)

Joo, B., Park, M. S., Lee, S. H., Choi, J. J., Lim, S. T., Rha, S. Y., et al. (2015). Pain palliation in patients with bone metastases using magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound with conformal bone system: a preliminary report. Yonsei Medical Journal, 56 (2), 503-509. Abstract retrieved April 22, 2015 from PubMed database.

Kim, H. S., Baik, J., Pham, L. D., & Jacobs, M. A. (2011). MR-guided high intensity focused ultrasound treatment for symptomatic uterine leiomyomata: Long-term outcomes. Academic Radiology, 18 (8), 970-976. (Level 3 evidence)

Menikou, G., Yiallouras, C., Yiannakou, M., & Damianou, C. (2016). MRI-guided focused ultrasound robotic system for the treatment of bone cancer. International Journal of Medical Robotics, Epub ahead of print. Abstract retrieved March 1, 2017 from PubMed database.

Mohammed, N., Patra, D., and Nanda, A. (2018, February) A meta-analysis of outcomes and complications of magnetic resonance-guided focused ultrasound in the treatment of essential tremor. Neurosurgical Focus, 44 (2), E4. Retrieved July 24, 2018 from PubMed database.

Napoli, A., Anzidei, M. De Nunzio, C., Cartocci, G., Panebianco, V., De Dominicis, C., et al. (2013). Real-time magnetic resonance-guided high-intensity focused ultrasound focal therapy for localised prostate cancer: Preliminary experience. European Urology, 63 (2), 395-398. (Level 4 evidence)

U. S. Food and Drug Administration. (2004, October). Center for Devices and Radiological Health. Medical Devices. ExAblate® 2000System - P040003. Retrieved April 5, 2013 from

Winifred S. Hayes, Inc. Health Technology Brief. (2016, July, last update search 2018, July). Magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound therapy (ExAblate 2000; InSightec Ltd.) for ablation of uterine fibroids. Retrieved February 4, 2019 from (33 articles/guidelines reviewed)

Winifred S. Hayes, Inc. Health Technology Brief. (2016, March; last update search 2018, March). Magnetic resonance–guided focused ultrasound therapy (ExAblate; InSightec Ltd.) for palliation of painful bone metastases. Retrieved February 4, 2019 from (28 articles/guidelines reviewed)




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