Ultrasound Stops Bleeding Lungs from Outside the Body
Scientists have discovered a way to heal punctured lungs without the need for difficult invasive surgeries. Using a beam of ultrasound, doctors may be able to pinpoint the torn location, focus the hot rays, and cause blood cells to seal the wound.
This Star Trek-like device is being developed by a group of engineers at the University of Washington and doctors at Harborview Medical Center. Harborview sees an average of two patients per day with bleeding lungs, many of which can be healed fairly simply by applying pressure or draining blood. However, about 1 in 10 cases requires surgery, which involves a long incision, separating the ribs, and removing part of the lung.
The lung is mostly made of air sacs, which block the transmission of ultrasound. However, the solid surface of the lung may transmit ultrasound. Since most lung punctures are on the surface, ultrasound may be able to seal these wounds.
So far, the researchers have tested the method on pigs, where more than 95% of the incisions were stable within two minutes of applied ultrasound. As the doctors emphasize, this is the first time ultrasound has been used for sealing punctured lungs, and offers a unique ability for non-invasive treatment.
Researchers have also been exploring the use of similar high-intensity focused ultrasound for stopping bleeding in other parts of the body, numbing pain, destroying cancerous tissue, and other applications.