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Ultrasound Protects Kidney Before Surgery

August 13, 2013
Written by: , Filed in: Abdominal Imaging
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This could have big implications: A simple advance dose of ultrasound can protect the kidney from an injury that commonly occurs as a side effect of surgery, according to a study reported online August 1 in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology.

Acute kidney injury, involving a sudden decline in kidney function, sometimes occurs after major surgery—even surgery on unrelated areas of the body—because such a procedure can interfere with blood flow to the kidneys. If an injury does occur, treatment options are limited.

Researchers working with mice exposed the kidneys to ultrasound 24 hours before disrupting blood flow to the kidneys. They used a standard clinical ultrasound imaging system, with no sedation or other treatment. When blood flow was restored, the kidneys were healthy. Mice who received a sham treatment, on the other hand, suffered significant kidney injury. The researchers traced the likely reason for the protective effect to an anti-inflammatory response that originated in the spleen.

Mark D. Okusa, MD, the study’s senior author, said:

Our studies using noninvasive ultrasound now provide us with an active treatment that appears to be simple, effective, and nontoxic for the prevention of acute kidney injury.

Dr. Okusa is the John C. Buchanan Distinguished Professor of Medicine at the School of Medicine at the University of Virginia. He was quoted in an American Society of Nephrology news release.

An accompanying editorial, also published online in the journal August 1, foresees great opportunities resulting from the study because so many surgical procedures carry a high risk of acute kidney injury. “In searching for novel approaches to prevent and even cure AKI,” the editorial says, “we believe that splenic ultrasound stimulation has a bright future ahead.”

That bright promise may extend beyond the kidneys. “Interestingly,” Dr. Okusa said, “we suspect that similar mechanisms that lead to kidney injury may also lead to lung, heart, and liver damage, and that this form of therapy might be effective for prevention of injury in other organs as well.”

Related CME seminar (up to 11.25 AMA PRA Category 1 credits™): UCSF Abdominal & Pelvic Imaging: CT/MR/US

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