Local surgeons say they have plan that can patch oil leak

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by Meg Farris / Eyewitness News

wwltv.com

Posted on June 7, 2010 at 10:06 PM

NEW ORLEANS -- BP has received thousands of suggestions from the public about how to fix the leak and how to clean up the massive spill.

You've even heard from famous Hollywood celebrities on their ideas, but now two local doctors are coming forward hoping BP will listen to ideas they say will work.

It's what surgeons are trained to do everyday in the O.R. to save lives: stop the bleeding. And now two local doctors say it makes sense to do the same on the Gulf floor.

"It looks like the ocean floor is bleeding and we know how to stop bleeding," said Dr. Steve Ramee, Ochsner Medical Center's section head of interventional cardiology.

Both Ramee and LSU Health Sciences Center General and Plastic Surgeon Dr. Kamran Khoobehi believe the concept used to stop bleeding, going against the blood pressure in an artery, can be used to stop the gushing oil.

Khoobehi stayed up until 3 a.m. getting a graphic made and even made a model using sheet rock clay, a whittled Chinese chop stick, a straw and duct tape to demonstrate a way to plug the hole.

"It is cheap to build. It does not require very complex engineering and really it can be fabricated in two or three days," Khoobehi said.

His device uses a circular wedge that starts off small and gets bigger, supported by a huge, heavy concrete plug. He said that would gradually go against the pressure of the leak. As the pressure builds, the weight of the concrete block would counteract it.

"The main thing is that you need to have smaller diameter at the beginning and a wider diameter at the base of it," Dr. Khoobehi said.

He ran it by an oil engineer and a structural engineer who say, in theory, it should work.

"That frictional force will eventually, as long as the pipe holds together which I'm sure it will because it's a high pressure pipe, that will eventually cause enough force to overcome the force of the oil coming out of the ground," said Roy Carubba, a structural engineer.

When Carubba was asked why he thinks in theory this could work, he responded, "Physics. It's a simple matter of physics."

Ramee said there are nearly a dozen ways he can stop bleeding. Some of them include threading smaller tubes in vessels and deploying stents. Some stents can gradually, in steps, block more and more of the flow. Others can close off a leak, while others can redirect the flow of blood from a bigger tube to a smaller one. That method, he said, would not only plug the oil leak but channel it to a connecting tube to capture the oil.

"We make these things tiny. We need to make them so they are 21 inches in diameter, which would take, you know, some Cajuns and some engineers a week to do," said Dr. Ramee.

The doctors believe these principles can work.

"The demands are going to be working with the engineers in the oil industry to determine what, how strong do these need to be. But computer modeling now can do this and I can show them designs working with some medical device companies and medical devise engineers of exactly how to build this, how big to build it, how strong to build it," Ramee said.

Both doctors have tried to get their concepts through to either government officials, or oil support companies, or BP itself, but have not heard back from anyone.

Khoobehi has already calculated the weight and size that his device would need to be based on the pressure reading posted on the BP website.

 

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