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There’s new hope on the horizon for patients with heart attack and unstable angina whose brains, legs, or heart vessels have become repeatedly obstructed and for those whose grafts from old bypass operations have degenerated. Researchers from Israel are gathering data on an ultrasound thrombolysis device that uses high frequency sound waves to safely and effectively break up clots and restore blood flow in once-blocked blood vessels.1 Ultrasound, says Michael A. Bettmann, MD, chief of cardiovascular and interventional radiology at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, NH, is less damaging to surrounding tissue than angioplasty, and you don’t have the risks of bleeding in brain arteries that can happen with a drug such as tissue plasminogen activator (TPA).
Ultrasound thrombolysis appears to work by breaking up fibrin, a protein component of clots. The risk of the debris forming an embolus is small because the pieces are too small to lodge in blood vessels. The probe encases three flexible wires that channel the ultrasound energy.