This invention is an optically activated transducer for generating acoustic vibrations in a biological medium. The transducer is located at the end of a fiber optic which may be located within a catheter. Energy for operating the transducer is provided optically by laser light transmitted through the fiber optic to the transducer. Pulsed laser light is absorbed in the working fluid of the transducer to generate a thermal pressure and consequent adiabatic expansion of the transducer head such that it does work against the ambient medium. The transducer returns to its original state by a process of thermal cooling. The motion of the transducer within the ambient medium couples acoustic energy into the medium. By pulsing the laser at a high repetition rate (which may vary from CW to 100 kHz) an ultrasonic radiation field can be established locally in the medium. This method of producing ultrasonic vibrations can be used in vivo for the treatment of stroke-related conditions in humans, particularly for dissolving thrombus. The catheter may also incorporate anti-thrombolytic drug treatments as an adjunct therapy and it may be operated in conjunction with ultrasonic detection equipment for imaging and feedback control.
The United States Government has rights in this invention pursuant to Contract No. W-7405-ENG-48 between the United States Department of Energy and the University of California for the operation of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory.