Thursday, October 4, 2012

Surgery goes into space

It may sound weird, but scientists have recently looked into doing things in space that we normally do on earth. Sometimes, experiments can be performed better when gravity is not present, as has been illustrated before. Because we send astronauts into space, medical procedures also become more relevant without the effect of gravity in place. Therefore, creating tools that can be used for medical procedures in space is highly relevant, and scientists from the Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh have developed a tool that allows for a variety of medical procedures.
The device developed by the American scientists basically looks like a box, and can be applied to wounds. Because this tool is filled up with a salty solution when applied to the skin, it creates a watertight seal that also provides pressure in order to stop the bleeding. Any blood that does end up being spilled can be recycled by the box, that the scientists have dubbed the Aqueous Immersion Surgical System, or AISS. This is especially valuable, because there is no way to replace blood after heavy bleeding in space.
In order to assess whether the AISS works like advertised, the researchers conducted  a series of experiments in a special aircraft that enables a weightless experience. An artificial blood vessel system will provide a surrogate for a bleeding wound, and the system will be used to test whether the AISS is able to stop the artificial blood from spilling. Future tests will be performed by taking the device on a sub-orbital flight, which allows for more time being weightless.

If all goes well, the medical box ought to become a valuable tool for astronauts. Regardless, using a box with a salty solution is certainly an interesting way to deal with bleeding and to recycle blood. So far, no real medical accidents have happened in space, but it is good to be prepared: especially if we are going to Mars, as this trip will take about half a year. Currently there are only Mars rovers present on the Red Planet.

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