The Thrombolytic Effect of Diagnostic Ultrasound–Induced Microbubble Cavitation in Acute Carotid Thromboembolism

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Abstract

Background

Acute ischemic stroke is often due to thromboembolism forming over ruptured atherosclerotic plaque in the carotid artery (CA). The presence of intraluminal CA thrombus is associated with a high risk of thromboembolic cerebral ischemic events. The cavitation induced by diagnostic ultrasound high mechanical index (MI) impulses applied locally during a commercially available intravenous microbubble infusion has dissolved intravascular thrombi, especially when using longer pulse durations. The beneficial effects of this in acute carotid thromboembolism is not known.

Materials and Methods

An oversized balloon injury was created in the distal extracranial common CA of 38 porcine carotid arteries. After this, a 70% to 80% stenosis was created in the mid common CA proximal to the injury site using partial balloon inflation. Acute thrombotic CA occlusions were created just distal to the balloon catheter by injecting fresh autologous arterial thrombi. After angiographic documentation of occlusion, the common carotid thrombosis was treated with either diagnostic low MI imaging alone (0.2 MI; Philips S5-1) applied through a tissue mimicking phantom (TMP) or intermittent diagnostic high MI stable cavitation (SC)–inducing impulses with a longer pulse duration (0.8 MI; 20 microseconds' pulse duration) or inertial cavitation (IC) impulses (1.2 MI; 20 microseconds' pulse duration). All treatment times were for 30 minutes. Intravenous ultrasound contrast (2% Definity; Lantheus Medical) was infused during the treatment period. Angiographic recanalization in 4 intracranial and extracranial vessels downstream from the CA occlusion (auricular, ascending pharyngeal, buccinator, and maxillary) was assessed with both magnetic resonance 3-dimensional time-of-flight and phase contrast angiography. All magnetic resonance images were interpreted by an independent neuroradiologist using the thrombolysis in cerebral infarction (TICI) scoring system.

Results

By phase contrast angiography, at least mild recanalization (TICI 2a or higher) was seen in 64% of downstream vessels treated with SC impulses compared with 33% of IC treated and 29% of low MI alone treated downstream vessels (P = 0.001), whereas moderate or complete recanalization (TICI 2b or higher) was seen in 39% of SC treated vessels compared with 10% IC treated and 21% of low MI alone treated vessels (P = 0.001).

Conclusions

High MI 20-microsecond pulse duration impulses during a commercial microbubble infusion can be used to recanalize acutely thrombosed carotid arteries and restore downstream flow without anticoagulants. However, this effect is only seen with SC-inducing impulses and not at higher mechanical indices, when a paradoxical reversal of the thrombolytic effect is observed. Diagnostic ultrasound–induced SC can be a nonsurgical method of dissolving CA thrombi and preventing thromboembolization.

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