Ultrasound-Assisted Laser Technique Vaporizes Arterial Plaque – Surgical Techniques


Image: Atherosclerosis is treated by inserting and inflating a balloon to dilate the artery (Photo courtesy of University of Kansas)

Atherosclerosis, a buildup of plaque, can lead to heart disease, artery disease, and chronic kidney disease and is traditionally treated by inserting and inflating a balloon to dilate the artery. Other laser-based treatments can remove blockages rather than simply compress them but are little used because they present a high risk of complication and low effectiveness. Now researchers have developed a method that combines a low-power laser with ultrasound to safely and effectively remove arterial plaque.

High-powered laser treatments direct thermal energy to vaporize water in the artery and create a vapor bubble, which expands and collapses to break up plaque. Similarly, the technology, developed by researchers at the University of Kansas (Lawrence, KS, USA), uses a low-power nanosecond pulsed laser to produce microbubbles. The addition of ultrasonic irradiation causes the microbubbles to expand, collapse and rupture the plaque. Because it destroys rather than compresses plaque, the combined technique will have a lower rate of restenosis, or re-narrowing of the artery, compared to balloon angioplasty or stenting. The control provided by the ultrasound and the low power laser will reduce the risk of dissection and perforation of the arteries.

The team performed ex vivo experiments on carotid artery plaque samples and pork belly samples, and are currently planning to perform in vivo experiments. Laser and ultrasound techniques are commonly used by clinicians and should be easy to teach and implement after in vivo studies. The combination of low power lasers and ultrasound techniques is not limited to atherosclerosis treatments. Researchers are also using the methodology for photomediated ultrasound therapy and ultrasound-assisted endovascular laser thrombolysis. The former can be used to remove abnormal microvessels in the eye to prevent blindness, while the latter can dissolve blood clots in the veins.

“In conventional laser angioplasty, high laser power is required for the entire cavitation process, whereas in our technology, lower laser power is only required to initiate the cavitation process,” Rohit Singh said. from the University of Kansas. “Overall, the combination of ultrasound and laser reduces the need for laser power and improves the efficiency of atherosclerotic plaque removal.”

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University of Kansas


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