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HIFU Treatment Gone Wrong- Woman Loses Sight

HIFU treatment

In recent days, another suspected case of a beauty treatment gone wrong has emerged, causing a woman to lose her eyesight. This follows a series of incidents where Hong Kong residents were poisoned after receiving botulinum toxin injections in mainland China. The culprit this time is the popular HIFU treatment.

Those familiar with medical beauty treatments (and who doesn’t love beauty?) should have heard of this name. HIFU has risen rapidly in popularity over the past three to four years, and almost every center claiming to offer medical beauty treatments has this therapy. HIFU stands for High Intensity Focused Ultrasound, which works by focusing high-energy ultrasound waves on a specific point, similar to how a magnifying glass focuses sunlight. When the skin tissue absorbs the ultrasound waves, it converts into heat energy and causes coagulative necrosis in a short time. Different probes have different depths, ranging from 1.5mm to 4.5mm, to achieve different treatment effects. For example, focusing on 4.5mm reaches the superficial muscular aponeurotic system (SMAS) and achieves a lifting effect.

Manufacturing HIFU equipment does not require any particular patent, so the threshold is not high. Manufacturers in mainland China, South Korea, and other places are competing to produce it. Therefore, the price varies, and HIFU has become a popular item in the beauty industry. Almost all major magazines and beauty centers actively promote it.

HIFU is present in various sizes of beauty salons, but who is responsible for operating it? HIFU has tremendous energy that can cause skin necrosis and self-repair. The depth of treatment reaches below the dermis, directly into the SMAS, and in HIFU lipolysis, it can reach a depth of 1.3cm into the deep fat layer. Even in the hands of a doctor, it must be handled with care to avoid vital tissues such as eyeballs and nerve lines. In this incident, the beauty salon arranged for a beautician to operate the equipment to treat wrinkles and sagging around the eyes. Unfortunately, the high-energy ultrasound waves entered the eyeball and hit the crystalline lens, causing permanent damage. The skin around the eyes is the thinnest in the body, and the thickness of the eyelid muscles is only about 3.5-4mm (varying from person to person). If a treatment depth of 4.5mm is used, the high-energy ultrasound waves will enter the eye.

Current Hong Kong laws do not specify how high-energy beauty equipment and ultrasound devices should be regulated, and operators theoretically do not require any qualifications, leaving consumers with no protection. I believe this incident is just the tip of the iceberg, and other victims are unwilling to come forward. However, it is expected that if high-energy equipment is operated by untrained personnel, such incidents will continue to occur.