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But how likely is it that an astronaut will actually need surgery?
For a crew of seven people, researchers estimate that there will be an average of one surgical emergency every 2.4 years during a Mars mission.
The main causes include injury, appendicitis, gallbladder inflammation or cancer. Astronauts are screened extensively when they are selected, but surgical emergencies can occur in healthy people and may be exacerbated in the extreme environment of space.
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With plans to put humans on Mars in the near future, a medical emergency beyond the stars could spell disaster. Nina Louise Purvis looks at how to fix this problem
Earlier this year, it was reported that an astronaut in space had devel...
As well as distance, the extreme environment faced during transit to and on Mars includes
This is tough on astronauts’ bodies and takes time getting used to.
We already know ...
Mars is a whopping 33.9 million miles away from Earth, when closest. In comparison, the International Space Agency (ISS) orbits just 248 miles above Earth.
For surgical emergencies on the ISS, the procedure is to ...
There is a wealth of research and preparation for the possible event of a surgical emergency during a Mars mission, but there are many unknowns, especially when it comes to diagnostics and anaesthesia. Ultimately, prevention is better than surgery. So selecting healthy crew and developing the eng...
Bodily fluids will also behave differently in space and on Mars. The blood in our veins may stick to instruments due to surface tension.
Floating droplets may form streams that could restrict the surgeon’s view- not ideal.
The circulating air of an enclosed cabin may also be an inf...
When orbiting or settled on Mars, however, we would ideally need a hypothetical “traumapod”, with radiation shielding, surgical robots, advanced life support and restraints.
This would be a dedicated module with filtered air supply and a computer to aid in diagnosis and treatment.
The surgeries carried out in space so far have revealed that a large amount of support equipment is essential. This is a luxury the crew may not have on a virgin voyage to Mars.
You cannot take much equipment on a rocket. It has therefore been suggested that a 3D printer could use materials...
Surgery in microgravity is possible and has already been carried out, albeit not on humans yet.
For example, astronauts have managed to repair rat tails and perform laparoscopy – a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to examine and repair the organs inside the abdomen – on animals, w...
One problem was that, during open surgery, the intestines would float around, obscuring the view of the surgical field. To deal with this, space travellers should opt for minimally invasive surgical techniques, such as keyhole surgery, ideally occurring within patients’ internal cavities through ...
Surgical emergencies are in fact one of the main challenges when it comes to human space travel. But over the last few years, space medicine researchers have come up with a number of ideas that could help, from surgical robots to 3D printe...
Robotic surgery is another option that has been used routinely on Earth and tested for planetary excursions.
During Neemo 7, a series of missions in the underwater habitat Aquarius in Florida Keys by Nasa, surgery by a robot controlled from another lab was successfully used to remove a fake...
19 yo medical student😄 I share interesting and sciency articles! 🇬🇧🇧🇩 MBTI: INTJ-T
I have been researching about the future of healthcare and how it would change over the coming years with the evolving technologies and the growing population. This context may be way into the future, but it is interesting to consider how space medicine can be possible, as you need more than a rocket to venture out in space!
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