New ultrasound 'drill' targets deep vein blood clots

June 14, 2017
blood
Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Researchers at North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have developed a new surgical tool that uses low-frequency intravascular ultrasound to break down blood clots that cause deep vein thrombosis. The tool is the first ultrasound "drill" that can be aimed straight ahead, allowing doctors to better target clots—which holds promise for significantly reducing treatment time. To date, the technology has been tested only in synthetic blood vessels.

Existing intravascular tools for clearing clots emit ultrasound waves laterally. This makes it harder to target clots exclusively, meaning that the ultrasound can also damage surrounding . However, ultrasound breaks the clots into very small pieces, so doctors don't need to use large doses of thinner to dissolve the clot remnants.

Another technique uses a diamond-tipped drill to effectively chew through clots. This is more targeted, posing less risk to blood vessels. However, this technique breaks the clot into relatively large pieces, requiring higher doses of blood-thinning drugs—which can pose risks of their own.

"Our new ultrasound tool is forward-facing, like a drill, but still breaks down clots into very fine particles," says Xiaoning Jiang, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State and corresponding author of a paper describing the work. "Our approach improves accuracy without relying on high doses of blood thinners, which we hope will reduce risks across the board."

The tool also incorporates an injection tube that allows users to inject microbubbles at the site of the clot, making the more effective at breaking down the clot.

The researchers tested a prototype of the device in a synthetic blood vessel using cow's blood.

"We found that we could dissolve 90 percent of a clot in 3.5 to 4 hours without using any blood thinners at all," says Jinwook Kim, lead author of the paper and a Ph.D. student in Jiang's lab. "That's compared to 10 hours for the combination of conventional ultrasound tools and ."

"This is a successful proof of concept, and we're now in the process of securing funding to move forward with trials in an animal model," Jiang says.

The researchers have filed a patent on the technology and are interested in working with industry partners to help develop the device.

Explore further: Over 10,000 Canadian women per year can stop taking blood thinners for unexplained clots

More information: Jinwook Kim et al, Intravascular forward-looking ultrasound transducers for microbubble-mediated sonothrombolysis, Scientific Reports (2017). DOI: 10.1038/s41598-017-03492-4

Related Stories

Over 10,000 Canadian women per year can stop taking blood thinners for unexplained clots

April 4, 2017
A Canadian-led research group has developed and validated a rule that could let half of women with unexplained vein blood clots stop taking blood thinners for life. These findings were published in The BMJ.

Lung ultrasound can help doctors see other diseases that mask as lethal clots in lung

January 31, 2017
A pretest risk stratification enhanced by ultrasound of lung and venous performs better than Wells score in the early diagnostic process of pulmonary embolism (PE). That is the main finding of a study to be published in the ...

Hands-free ultrasound device with clot-busting drug safe for stroke patients

October 24, 2013
A hands-free ultrasound device combined with a clot-busting drug was safe for ischemic stroke patients in a phase II pilot study, reported in the American Heart Association journal Stroke.

Recommended for you

How genes and environment interact to raise risk of congenital heart defects

October 19, 2017
Infants of mothers with diabetes have a three- to five-fold increased risk of congenital heart defects. Such developmental defects are likely caused by a combination of genetic and environmental factors. However, the molecular ...

Mouse studies shed light on how protein controls heart failure

October 18, 2017
A new study on two specially bred strains of mice has illuminated how abnormal addition of the chemical phosphate to a specific heart muscle protein may sabotage the way the protein behaves in a cell, and may damage the way ...

Newborns with trisomy 13 or 18 benefit from heart surgery, study finds

October 18, 2017
Heart surgery significantly decreases in-hospital mortality among infants with either of two genetic disorders that cause severe physical and intellectual disabilities, according to a new study by a researcher at the Stanford ...

Saving hearts after heart attacks: Overexpression of a gene enhances repair of dead muscle

October 17, 2017
University of Alabama at Birmingham biomedical engineers report a significant advance in efforts to repair a damaged heart after a heart attack, using grafted heart-muscle cells to create a repair patch. The key was overexpressing ...

High blood pressure linked to common heart valve disorder

October 17, 2017
For the first time, a strong link has been established between high blood pressure and the most common heart valve disorder in high-income countries, by new research from The George Institute for Global Health at the University ...

Blood cancer gene could be key to preventing heart failure

October 16, 2017
A new study, published today in Circulation, shows that the gene Runx1 increases in damaged heart muscle after a heart attack. An international collaboration led by researchers from the University of Glasgow, found that mice ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

antialias_physorg
not rated yet Jun 14, 2017
Last year I was at a conference where a keynote speaker outlined the future of interventional ultrasound applications. It's amazing how many different ways US can be used to affect areas of interest without having to open up a patient (With proper cooling even through bones like the skull) . From simple heating to ablation to liquefication by causing very small regions to rapidly oscillate or cavitate to heating of the air inside bubbles created by cavitation. The amount of spatial control was very good (down to delineations as small as 200 microns between totally destroyed and totally unaffected cells)

It seems that in the not so far future this may change the way not only blood clots but also tumors are treated (i.e. no longer any radiation therapy that also damages surrounding tissue)...or even brain surgery.

And, of course, ultrasound machines are far cheaper than those using radiation, which will make it possible for everyone to benefit - not just rich nations.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.