|Clot buster: High-intensity focused ultrasound in conjunction with magnetic resonance imaging, pictured here, has the potential to pinpoint the location of a stroke-causing blood clot and break it up with sound waves. |
Credit: Thilo Hoelscher
The technology is already being tested in patients to remove diseased brain tissue, but treating stroke will require a more delicate hand. Hoelscher and colleagues will need to prove that the device can break up a clot without damaging nearby brain tissue.
Strokes are the most common cause of long-term disability in the United States, and the third most common cause of death. Typically, they occur when a blood clot blocks an artery and prevents blood from flowing to the brain. The longer the clot remains, the more brain tissue dies, and the lower a person's chance for survival. "Anything you can do that's going to safely restore blood flow more quickly could have a lot of potential for societal, medical, and economic impact," says Evan Unger, a radiologist at the University of Arizona who is not involved in the research.