Trauma is responsible for about 15% of the global burden of disease according to the WHO. Doctors in Seattle are beginning to play around with a device they might have first seen in Star Trek. Just like the tricorder, the device is being used to stop internal bleeding in the lung area.
In this case, lenses focus the high-intensity ultrasound beams at a particular spot inside the body on the patient's lungs. Focusing the ultrasound beams, in a process similar to focusing sunlight with a magnifying glass, creates a tiny but extremely hot spot about the size and shape of a grain of rice. The rays heat the blood cells until they form a seal. Meanwhile the tissue between the device and the spot being treated does not get hot, as it would with a laser beam.
"You can penetrate deep into the body and deliver the energy to the bleeding very accurately," Vaezy said. Recent tests on pigs' lungs showed that high-intensity ultrasound sealed the leaks in one or two minutes. More than 95 percent of the 70 incisions were stable after two minutes of treatment, according to results published this summer in the Journal of Trauma.
The research is funded by the NIH and the National Space Biomedical Research Institute. We could see one of these tools attached to the end of a robotic arm operating remotely using pre-programmed procedures to save George Jetson.
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