Histotripsy has been shown to be an effective treatment for model kidney stones, eroding their surface to tiny particulate debris via a cavitational bubble cloud. However, similar to shock wave lithotripsy, histotripsy stone treatments display a rate-dependent efficacy, with pulses applied at a low rate generating more efficient stone erosion in comparison with those applied at a high rate. This is hypothesized to be the result of residual cavitation bubble nuclei generated by bubble cloud collapse. Although the histotripsy bubble cloud only lasts on the order of 100 μs, these microscopic remnant bubbles can persist on the order of 1 s, inducing direct attenuation of subsequent histotripsy pulses and influencing bubble cloud dynamics. In an effort to mitigate these effects, we have developed a novel strategy to actively remove residual cavitation nuclei from the field using low-amplitude ultrasound pulses. Previous work has demonstrated that with selection of the appropriate acoustic parameters these bubble removal pulses can stimulate the aggregation and subsequent coalescence of microscopic bubble nuclei, effectively deleting them from the target volume.
Here, we incorporate bubble removal pulses in histotripsy treatment of model kidney stones. It was found that when histotripsy is applied at low rate (1 Hz), bubble removal does not produce a statistically significant change in erosion. At higher pulse rates of 10, 100, and 500 Hz, incorporating bubble removal results in 3.7-, 7.5-, and 2.7-fold increases in stone erosion, respectively. High-speed imaging indicates that the introduction of bubble removal pulses allows bubble cloud dynamics resulting from high pulse rates to more closely approximate those generated at the low rate of 1 Hz. These results corroborate previous work in the field of shock wave lithotripsy regarding the ill effects of residual bubble nuclei, and suggest that high treatment efficiency can be recovered at high pulse rates through – ppropriate manipulation of the cavitation environment surrounding the stone.