High-intensity focused ultrasound (HIFU) is used clinically to heat cells therapeutically or to destroy them through heat or cavitation. In homogeneous media, the highest wave amplitudes occur at a predictable focal region. However, HIFU is generally not used in the proximity of bones due to wave absorption and scattering. Ultrasound is passed through the skull in some clinical trials, but the complex geometry of the spine poses a greater targeting challenge and currently prohibits therapeutic ultrasound treatments near the vertebral column. This paper presents a comprehensive experimental study involving shadowgraphy and hydrophone measurements to determine the spatial distribution of pressure amplitudes from induced HIFU waves near vertebrae. First, a bone-like composite plate that is partially obstructing the induced waves is shown to break the conical HIFU form into two regions. Wave images are captured using pulsed laser shadowgraphy, and hydrophone measurements over the same region are compared to the shadowgraphy intensity plots to validate the procedure. Next, shadowgraphy is performed for an individual, clean, ex-vivo feline vertebra. The results indicate that shadowgraphy can be used to determine energy deposition patterns and to determine heating at a specific location. The latter is confirmed through additional temperature measurements. Overall, these laboratory experiments may help determine the efficacy of warming specific nerve cells within mammal vertebrae without causing damage to adjacent tissue.

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