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  • What happens if an astronaut gets sick or injured in space?

  • On the moon, you're over three days away, or on Mars you could be as much as eight months away.

  • Not everybody on a crew to Mars is going to be a physician.

  • You have to be able to operate autonomously.

  • Dr. George Pantalos and the team at University of Louisville are working with NASA,

  • Carnegie Mellon University, and Baylor College of Medicine

  • to develop novel ways to perform complicated procedures

  • in near-zero gravity.

  • When you're working in weightlessness, it completely changes how you interact

  • with your instruments, how you interact with your supplies and equipment, how you interact

  • with your patient. Whoever is providing the care has to be somehow or another fixed in place,

  • as does the patient, so that you can interact with them successfully and safely.

  • In addition to overcoming the challenges of weightlessness, the team has to consider the

  • size, shape, and efficiency of medical tools.

  • You can only take so much with you given the thrust capabilities of the launch vehicle,

  • the power, the volume available for storage in the spacecraft, and everything.

  • As we're starting to anticipate using a robot as a surgical assistant during a spaceflight,

  • might we need to redesign some of the surgical tools, both to make them easy for the robot

  • to identify visually, as well as to pick up with their fingers, and to then hand it to

  • the surgeon when the surgeon needs it, or to manipulate the instrument themselves?

  • George and his students have brainstormed and built several answers to the challenge

  • of space medicine, from fluid containment to 3D-printing.

  • When we're working in weightlessness, especially when we're doing new procedures and working

  • with new materials, and materials that might be hazardous, we want to make sure

  • that they don't get out into the rest of the environment.

  • A glove box is a container that you put an object in to keep it from getting away, simply put,

  • or to provide special treatment. We've had to create a very brand-new glove box that

  • will fit in the size limitation of the suborbital spacecraft.

  • During surgery on the earth, you might have one instrument to provide suction, you might

  • have another instrument to provide cautery. We've created an instrument that combines

  • all of those things together, so in one instrument the surgeon, at the push of a button,

  • can do suction, irrigation, illumination, and eventually will be able to do cautery.

  • We've developed a hemispherical dome, that you can put over the location of where the

  • surgery is going to take place to contain surgical fluids. With wound waste recovery,

  • the idea is to recover all of these fluids and try to filter it and treat it. The output

  • from that would be drinkable water, sterile water, or sterile saline.

  • Which sounds gross, but could help support astronauts on long term space missions.

  • For an exploration space mission, there will be some kind fabrication module onboard that

  • can 3D print plastics, polymers, metals, tissue, electronics, and hybrid materials. Those materials

  • can be recycled and put back into the source material storage to 3D-print for some other

  • tool, or a replacement part that might come up needed later in the mission.

  • Once George and his team are ready to test out their new designs, they'll travel to

  • the Johnson Space Center in Houston, where they'll test their tools

  • on the NASA zero-G plane.

  • The preparation for a test flight with NASA is pretty intensive, but once you get up in

  • the air and you actually start to see things work, that's when things get really exciting

  • and lots of fun. Working in weightlessness is such a unique experience,

  • even though it's challenging, it's also very pleasant.

  • Though it takes several years for the designs to be tested and approved by the FDA,

  • George's research is paving the way for safer and more feasible human space travel.

  • If we can accomplish this kind of medical care during an exploration space mission,

  • there is a good chance we could do it, let's say, on a lunar colony that's been established

  • for visitors to come and visit the moon.

  • Nowas it turns out, medical tools and instruments and monitors that are going to be used in

  • spaceflight could potentially be very beneficial

  • to make surgical procedures back on the ground go a lot better.

  • For more episodes of Science in the Extremes, check out this one right here.

  • Don't forget to subscribe and come back to Seeker for more episodes. Thanks for watching!

What happens if an astronaut gets sick or injured in space?

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Can We Perform Surgery in Space? - Science In The Extremes

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    joey joey posted on 2021/04/16
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