FEB 13, 2023 10:00 AM PST

Ultrasound creates "vortex" to break up brain blood clots

WRITTEN BY: Ryan Vingum

Treating brain clots just got a lot quicker.

A team of researchers have developed a new ultrasound tool that creates a vortex, or “tornado-like” experience that can break up dangerous blood clots that form in the brain. The new ultrasound transducer is described in a recent article published in Research.

The new device is designed specifically for certain types of blood clots, such as a cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST), which are a type of blood clot that form in parts of the brain responsible for draining blood out of the brain. With nowhere to go, blood cells may burst and start to leak into other parts of the brain (known as a hemorrhage). Though incredibly rare (affect five in every one million people every year), it can be lethal. In children, head injuries, sickle cell disease, and blood clotting disorders can increase the risk of CVST. In adults, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and even pregnancy complications can increase the risk of CVST.

The device is guided to the affected areas in the brain with the help of a catheter. Once there, the ultrasound uses sound waves to create a vortex-type motion that can quickly break up a blockage. Specifically, the ultrasound creates waves with a helical wavefront.

This new technology may offer a crucial new option for people with this type of blood clot. Currently, clot-busting medication is the go-to option for treating CVST; however, medication takes a while to work. The new ultrasound transducer, on the other, hand could allow clinicians to treat CVST far quicker than with medication. In fact, some medications could take over 24 hours to take effect, where the new ultrasound transducer could accomplish the same goal in less than an hour.

To date, the new device has been studied in an artificially-crafted version of a cerebral venous sinus using cow’s blood.

Sources: Medgadget; Research; Johns Hopkins Medicine

About the Author
Master's (MA/MS/Other)
Science writer and editor, with a focus on simplifying complex information about health, medicine, technology, and clinical drug development for a general audience.
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