Researchers are developing a tool that uses low-frequency intravascular ultrasound waves to break down blood clots that cause deep vein thrombosis.
This ultrasound "drill" can be aimed straight ahead to better target clots. The tool also incorporates an injection tube that allows users to inject microbubbles at the site of the clot, making the ultrasound waves more effective.
Researchers from North Carolina State University unveiled a new technology this week aimed at improving the process of targeting and treating deep vein blood clots through the use of ultrasound. The drill-like device has the potential to provide doctors with a surgical tool that uses ultrasound waves to break the clots into small pieces, removing the need for large doses of blood thinner to dissolve clot remnants.
Unlike existing intravascular ultrasound tools that emit waves laterally, this device was designed as a forward-facing tool, like a drill, that can break individual clots down into small particles without damaging the surrounding blood vessels. Xiaoning Jiang, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at NC State University and co-author on the work, told Qmed this feature is what could make the technology truly transformative.
"Drilling straight ahead is the biggest feature of our technique," Jiang said. "The forward propagating ultrasound waves will enhance the cavitation of microbubbles, and enhance the blood thinner penetration into clots, where clot disruption can then be facilitated. The aim is to minimize the risk of vessel wall damage, and minimize the blood thinner dose and its associated side effects."
The technology is able to accomplish this through the use of an injection tube that will enable users to inject microbubbles directly at the site of the clot, which will allow for a more targeted form of ultrasound treatment. The team was able to test this method using a synthetic blood vessel filled with cow's blood. When using the synthetic blood vessel, the team found they could dissolve 90% of a clot in only three to four hours -- all without using any blood thinners at all.
Conventional ultrasound therapies can take up to 10 hours to locate and treat deep vein blood clots, and they typically require the use of blood thinners to aid in the process of breaking down the clot. We've also seen doctors work with magnetic nanoparticles to destroy blood clots -- a technique that could have an impact on clot therapies as it progresses beyond the trial stages.
"We believe this technique could be useful for minimally invasive surgeries, and even robotic surgery," Jiang said. "I hope to have a team of 20 people working on this full time, so that we can complete in vivo animal studies, followed by clinical trials within the next three to five years. I'm also hoping medical companies can jump in at an early stage so that the FDA-related procedure and instrumentation can be taken care of early."
Jiang said his team has already filed a patent on the technology, and plans to begin working with industry partners to help move the development of the device forward as they prepare for trials.
Kristopher Sturgis is a contributor to Qmed.
[Photo credit: NC State University]