Cavitation plays an important role for the destruction of kidney stones in shock wave lithotripsy. Currently, tests are being conducted as to whether cavitation can be used to transfer large molecules into biological cells (sonoporation). Nitrogen cavitation is a method used in research to lyse cell membranes while leaving organelles intact. Cavitation plays a key role in non-thermal non-invasive fractionation of tissue for treatment of a variety of diseases. Cavitation also probably plays a role in HIFU, a thermal noninvasive treatment methodology for cancer.
Ultrasound is sometimes used to increase bone formation, for instance post-surgical applications. Ultrasound treatments and/or exposure can create cavitation that can potentially "result in a syndrome involving manifestations of nausea, headache, tinnitus, pain, dizziness, and fatigue.".
It has been suggested that the sound of "cracking" knuckles derives from the collapse of cavitation in the synovial fluid within the joint. Movements that cause cracking expand the joint space, thus reducing pressure to the point of cavitation. The gas dissolved in synovial fluid is primarily carbon dioxide. It remains controversial whether this is associated with clinically significant joint injury such as osteoarthritis.
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