A tiny ultrasound device that helps dissolve blood clots is showing promise in breaking up potentially deadly pulmonary embolisms. Research on the largest group of patients treated with this method was presented at the 23rd annual International Symposium on Endovascular Therapy (ISET) held in Miami from 16 to 18 January 2011.
“This method may revolutionise the way we treat patients with large pulmonary embolisms,” said Tod Engelhardt, chairman of the Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Division at East Jefferson General Hospital, and assistant professor of Surgery at Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans. “These are patients who were saved and prevented from going into heart failure.”
In the study, 27 patients with significant pulmonary embolisms were treated at East Jefferson General Hospital in Metairie, Los Angeles, USA. All survived and each benefitted from a significant reduction in right heart chamber size. On average, the size of each clot was reduced by more than half. Four patients suffered from major bleeding and two from minor bleeding. There were no bleeding complications in patients who received a lower dose of clot-busting drugs.
In traditional therapy, clot-busting drugs are delivered to the blockage, but the method can take many hours or even days. In the ultrasound method, the device is advanced through blood vessels to the site of the blockage, where it emits sound waves that loosen the clot, allowing the clot-busting drugs to dissolve it faster. The method currently is used to treat deep vein thrombosis.