The Potential Complications of Surgery in Space

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As we know, astronauts must face lots of difficulties during a mission in space. Even the easiest task may become quite a challenge when there is no gravity. However, the list of possible obstacles does not end on everyday activities. A team of scientists from the University of Pittsburgh and King’s College Hospital in London published their study in which they describe potential difficulties and complications while performing surgery in space.

Surgeries will have to be performed in space

Since at the moment our presence in space is limited to the International Space Station, astronauts are being transported back to Earth in case of medical emergencies. Future manned missions to Mars will require for any medical treatment to be performed aboard. It takes about nine months to reach Mars with our current level of technology, so going back to Earth is out of question.

Also, considering a delay of radio signals of up to 22 minutes, it would be impossible to perform any surgery remotely from Earth, using mechanical robots. This would make a highly medically trained human a necessary addition to every manned mission to Mars. Of course, the storage space on any modern spacecraft does not allow to take all the necessary equipment. In order to avoid any storage problems, a 3D printing technology could be used to create the necessary tools for any type of treatment.

Problems while performing surgery in space

When it comes to the surgery itself, patients can be physically restrained, but their body fluids would be free to move in every possible direction.

First of all, there is a big chance that blood could disperse throughout the cabin, creating perfect conditions to potentially infect the rest of the crew. Another risk comes with the lack of gravity, which doesn’t hold patients’ bowels in place. There is a chance that unnaturally located bowels could be eviscerated by accidents during surgery, resulting in leaking of gastrointestinal bacteria into the patient’s body and the whole ship.

According to scientists, the risk of contamination can be avoided by covering the patient in a hermetically sealed enclosure, which would be separated from the rest of the spacecraft.

As we plan our future mission to Mars, it might be crucial to significantly develop our technology and hopefully we will avoid any problems while performing surgeries in space.

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Brad is a former Senior Fellow at the Schuster Institute for Investigative Journalism at Brandeis University, is an award-winning travel, culture, and parenting writer. His writing has appeared in many of the Canada’s most respected and credible publications, including the Toronto Star, CBC News and on the cover of Smithsonian Magazine. A meticulous researcher who’s not afraid to be controversial, he is nationally known as a journalist who opens people’s eyes to the realities behind accepted practices in the care of children. Brad is a contributing journalist to Advocator.ca


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