Purpose: The authors have recently developed a small-diameter, thin, flexible ultrasonic catheter device that permits the removal of thrombus by low-power transverse ultrasonic cavitation energy. In this study, the authors sought to determine whether this device could be used to eliminate portal vein thrombosis in an animal model.
Materials and methods: In five anesthetized pigs, a total of six occlusions of the left portal vein were achieved with use of autologous clot with (n = 2) or without (n = 4) thrombin injection (250 U) introduced via a 7-F transhepatic catheter/sheath system. Angiographic examination documented complete occlusion of this vessel. The 75-cm-long, 21-gauge ultrasonic catheter (Resolution) was introduced into the clot under angiographic guidance via the transhepatic sheath. Transverse-wave ultrasonic energy was then delivered from the distal 5 cm of the probe at 3.5 W +/- 10% power for up to 6 minutes. Repeat angiographic studies were performed to document patency. After the procedure, gross and histopathologic examinations were performed.
Results: Restoration of patency of the main left portal vein was documented in all cases at angiography, with no evidence of residual clot fragments in the major branches. However, side branches demonstrated small thrombotic plugs on pathologic examination. No complications such as perforation of the vessel adjacent to the active ultrasonic tip were encountered. Virtually all thrombolysis was documented to occur within the first minute of energy application. At gross pathologic examination, there was no evidence of damage to the portal vein, and histopathologic examination demonstrated minimal intimal disruption without damage to the media.
Conclusions: This preliminary animal study suggests the feasibility of a percutaneous transhepatic approach to the treatment of portal vein thrombosis with use of low-power ultrasonic cavitation energy. With further study, this method may have potential for the treatment of thrombotic disease, thereby offering novel therapy to patients with thrombotic vascular occlusions.