Scientists use ultrasound ‘tornado’ to break down blood clots

Credit: Research (2023). DOI: 10.34133/research.0048

In a study from North Carolina State University, scientists have developed a new tool and technique that uses “vortex ultrasound”—a sort of ultrasonic tornado—to break down blood clots in the brain.

The new approach worked more quickly than existing techniques to eliminate blood clots formed in cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST).

Their previous work looked at various techniques that use ultrasound to eliminate blood clots using what are essentially forward-facing waves

The new work uses vortex ultrasound, where the ultrasound waves have a helical wavefront.

Based on their testing, the team says this approach eliminates blood clots more quickly than existing techniques, largely because of the shear stress induced by the vortex wave.

CVST clots increase pressure on blood vessels in the brain. This increases the risk of a hemorrhage in the brain, which can be catastrophic for patients.

Existing techniques rely in large part on interventions that dissolve the blood clot. But this is a time-consuming process.

The new approach has the potential to address these clots more quickly, reducing risk for patients.

CVST occurs when a blood clot forms in the veins responsible for draining blood from the brain.

Incidence rates of CVST were between 2 and 3 per 100,000 in the United States in 2018 and 2019, and the incidence rate appears to be increasing.

The new tool consists of a single transducer that is specifically designed to produce the swirling, vortex effect.

The transducer is small enough to be incorporated into a catheter, which is then fed through the circulatory system to the site of the blood clot.

The researchers also conducted tests to determine whether the vortex ultrasound caused significant damage to red blood cells. They found that there was no substantial damage to red blood cells.

The team says their next step is to perform tests using an animal model to better establish the viability of this technique for CVST treatment.

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The study was conducted by Xiaoning Jiang et al and published in Research.

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