Key Point: Significant temperature change in post-natal human tissue

The Risk of Exposure to Diagnostic Ultrasound in Postnatal Subjects – Thermal Effects

William D. O’Brien, Jr, PhD, Cheri X. Deng, PhD, Gerald R. Harris, PhD, Bruce A. Herman, MS, Christopher R. Merritt, MD, Naren Sanghvi, MS, and James F. Zachary, DVM, PhD

Journal of Ultrasound Medicine. 2008 April; 27(4): 517–540.

(Website Note: This study also has information on how the FDA increased the allowable intensity of prenatal ultrasound)


This review evaluates the thermal mechanism for ultrasound-induced biological effects in postnatal subjects. The focus is the evaluation of damage versus temperature increase. A view of ultrasound-induced temperature increase is presented, based on thermodynamic Arrhenius analyses. The hyperthermia and other literature revealed data that allowed for an estimate of a temperature increase threshold of tissue damage for very short exposure times. This evaluation yielded an exposure time extension of the 1997 American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine Conclusions Regarding Heat statement (American Institute of Ultrasound in Medicine, Laurel, MD) to 0.1 second for nonfetal tissue, where, at this exposure time, the temperature increase threshold of tissue damage was estimated to be about 18°C. The output display standard was also evaluated for soft tissue and bone cases, and it was concluded that the current thermal indices could be improved to reduce the deviations and scatter of computed maximum temperature rises.