Engineers at the University of Washington created a new emergency treatment: a tricorder type device using high-intensity focused ultrasound rays. The researchers published the first experiment using ultrasound to seal punctured lungs: "No one has ever looked at treating lungs with ultrasound," said Shahram Vaezy, a UW associate professor of bioengineering. But, the results were really impressive, Vaezy said. However, he cautions that this is still in the early stages and the technique is not yet being tested on humans.

High-intensity focused ultrasound promises "bloodless surgery" with no scalpels or sutures in sight. Doctors pass a sensor over the patient and use invisible rays to heal the wound. Researchers are exploring the use of high-intensity focused ultrasound - with beams tens of thousands of times more powerful than used in imaging - for applications ranging from numbing pain to destroying cancerous tissue.

In this case, lenses focus the high-intensity ultrasound beams at a particular spot inside the body on the patient's lungs. Focusing the ultrasound beams, in a process similar to focusing sunlight with a magnifying glass, creates a tiny but extremely hot spot about the size and shape of a grain of rice. The rays heat the blood cells until they form a seal. Meanwhile the tissue between the device and the spot being treated does not get hot, as it would with a laser beam.

"You can penetrate deep into the body and deliver the energy to the bleeding very accurately," Vaezy said. Recent tests on pigs' lungs showed that high-intensity ultrasound sealed the leaks in one or two minutes. More than 95 percent of the 70 incisions were stable after two minutes of treatment, according to results. The findings suggest that ultrasound might replace painful, invasive procedures one day.; Source: University of Washington