While traveling in space, even minor accidents can turn deadly. For years, scientists have been working to find solutions for this problem: what do you do in an emergency when the nearest hospital is days away?
A recent collaboration between U.S. and Canadian surgeons, including Dr. Anthony LaPorta, professor of clinical medicine and course director of the military track at Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine in Parker, has made a huge leap forward in answering this question.
While experiencing zero gravity, the surgeons performed medical procedures on a cut suit, a body suit that contains synthetic organs and blood, providing a realistic way to practice surgical procedures.
On June 26, LaPorta and other top trauma surgeons boarded a specially equipped Falcon 20 jet from the Flight Research Laboratory at the NRC, taking off from Ottawa/Macdonald-Cartier International Airport. There were three different flights, with the jet entering into more than 15 parabolic flight maneuvers during each flight. These maneuvers created between 20 and 30 seconds of weightlessness at a time.
During each flight procedure, sensors, cameras, and electronics monitored such factors as the surgeons’ physiology, acceleration, flight data, and the time it took to stop the cut suit’s bleeding during zero gravity.
“It was fascinating,” said LaPorta, “to see that damage control surgery could be done in weightlessness, broken down into simple steps.”
The experiment is the first of its kind, with the results being extremely beneficial to the future of medicine and space travel. Yet this information is not only useful for astronauts; it will also be helpful for injuries that occur on battlefields or in the wilderness without immediate access to health care.
The next phase of this project will be testing whether personnel with some medical training can perform surgery in a weightless environment, while under the direction of board-certified surgeons via Skype.
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