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Ultrasound could prevent kidney complications after surgery

Author: Neil Fearn  Bullet  Dated: 15/08/2013

US researchers believe that treatments based on ultrasound technology could halt the complications that frequently occur after major kidney procedures.

The researchers from the University of Virginia, who carried out the study on mice, said the ultrasound technique could quickly be translated to humans.

New therapies possible

Experts said the tests, whose results appeared in the Journal of the American Society of Nephrology, suggested new therapies were possible.

Acute kidney injury (AKI) is where kidney function is suddenly lost, which in individuals who are already unwell can easily deteriorate into pneumonia, diarrhoea or even cardiac arrest.

The condition sometimes occurs following a major operation, such as some heart procedures, since surgery often interrupts normal blood flow to the kidneys. Treatment options are limited once AKI has set in.

Still healthy

For the tests, researchers used ultrasound on anaesthetised mice by way of a routine imaging method 1 day prior to interrupting the kidneys' blood supply. After normal blood flow was returned, the animals' kidneys were found to be still healthy.

However, in another batch of mice which received a 'false' ultrasound, the same blood flow disruption resulted in noticeable kidney injury.

The scientists say the ultrasound stimulated an anti-inflammatory response from the spleen, which then allowed the kidneys some protection.

Active treatment

The research head Dr Mark Okusa said his team's studies with non-invasive ultrasound had produced an "active treatment" that seemed to be "simple, effective, and non-toxic" for the fight against AKI.

"To our knowledge this has never been described for the prevention of tissue or organ injury," Dr Okusa said. "Interestingly, 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."

Call for UK action on AKI

The UK's former national clinical director for kidney care said the paper was interesting. Prof Donal O'Donoghue, who has called for action over the increasing instances of AKI, said: "It suggests that there are protective strategies over and above good basic fluid and medicines management care that are the cornerstones of prevention."

Prof O'Donoghue added that looking further into the mouse trials is the logical next move. "But we also need to invest in AKI research in the UK," he concluded.

Legal advice still crucial

However, any advances in ultrasound therapy in the UK will not lessen the importance of easy access to legal expertise.

Because an acute kidney injury can lead to a variety of further complications, any physician treating AKI is clearly under severe pressure to get things right. So it is vital that anyone who believes they have a medical negligence claim because of a doctor's or surgeon's oversight can pursue the matter as smoothly as possible.

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