Researchers create ‘ultrasound drill’ to attack thrombosis

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NC State & UNC at Chapel Hill's Ultrasound Drill

North Carolina researchers have developed a new surgical tool that uses low-frequency intravascular ultrasound to break down blood clots that could cause deep vein thrombosis.

The ultrasound “drill”, called that because it can be aimed directly ahead, could allow physicians to better target clots and reduce treatment time, according to researchers from North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Current intravascular ultrasound tools emit ultrasound waves laterally, which researchers said can make targeting clots exclusively a difficult task, and can result in damage to surrounding blood vessels. Another technique uses a diamond-tipped drill to break up clots, but can leave clots in larger pieces which require more blood-thinning drugs.

“Our new ultrasound tool is forward-facing, like a drill, but still breaks down clots into very fine particles. Our approach improves accuracy without relying on high doses of blood thinners, which we hope will reduce risks across the board. 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,” study author Xiaoning Jiang of NC State said in a prepared statement.

The ultrasound “drill” also includes an injection tube to allow the user to inject microbubbles at the clot site so the ultrasound can break down the clot more effectively.

“We found that we could dissolve 90 percent of a clot in 3.5 to 4 hours without using any blood thinners at all. That’s compared to 10 hours for the combination of conventional ultrasound tools and blood thinners,” lead author Jinwook Kim of NC State said in a press release.

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