According to a study published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology (JASN), ultrasound treatment prior to a major surgery may help prevent acute kidney injury - a not so uncommon complication, which occurs after a major surgery such as heart or abdominal surgery.
The study has caused quite a stir amongst medical and health care professionals as it seems to suggest that a simple non-invasive therapy may reduce the risks for patients undergoing a major surgery. The study was conducted by researchers at the University Of Virginia School Of Medicine.
Acute kidney injury is characterized by a sudden decrease in kidney function. It can sometimes occur in patients who have undergone major surgery, caused by the interruption of blood flow to the kidneys during the surgery. Acute kidney injury can lead to complications such as lung injury, cardiac problems and liver dysfunction. Complications to the neurological system and the immune system are also liable to occur. Patients who suffer from acute kidney injury have few treatment options apart from supportive care.
It should be noted however, that the technique was tested in the laboratory on mice and it has a long way to go before being approved for use on humans. But the potential for benefiting humans is unmistakable. Ultrasound machines are already in use in hospitals as a diagnostic tool and can easily be used as a therapeutic tool to protect patients who are about to undergo a major surgery.
If the results are translated to acute kidney injury, it means that a simple procedure such as exposure to ultrasound can be adequate protection against this dreaded complication of major surgery. No drugs with side effects, no invasive procedures, nothing. The patient can peacefully undergo the required surgical procedure without fear of acute kidney failure or other major complications which stem from it.
In the study, supported by the National Institutes of Health, the researchers were using a special type of ultrasound to deliver drugs directly to the kidneys. They happened to discover the protective effect that ultrasound had on the kidneys, and pursued the subject in order to determine the mechanism of this effect in kidney protection.
What the studies determined was that the ultrasound treatment did not act on the kidneys but on the spleen. As explained, the spleen sends out inflammatory signals during acute kidney injury. These signals lead to additional injury to the kidney. What the ultrasound does is block the inflammatory signals from the spleen, thereby protecting the kidney from further damage.
It was also found that the protective effect on the kidneys remained even if the ultrasound was administered two days prior to the injury. More than two days and the protective effect began to wane.
The next stage of the research will feature human studies.
The findings have been published online by the American Society of Nephrology and have also appeard on the cover of their recent print edition.