News | October 10, 2006

Outpatient Surgical Procedure … In Space?

French doctors recently added a new wrinkle to the lexicon of outpatient surgery by successfully operating on a conscious patient in spurts of weightlessness during a three-hour period, the Associated Press reported.
The doctors removed a cyst from a man’s arm aboard an airplane in flight that achieved near zero-gravity conditions by ascending and diving much like a roller coaster. When the Airbus 300 Zero-G airplane entered into a series of dives it created near-weightless conditions that lasted 22 seconds each, during which the doctors performed the surgery. The medical personnel and patient were strapped to the walls and floor of the plane, respectively.
All six members of the medical team and the patient trained in zero-gravity machines in preparation for the simple surgical procedure that required only a local anesthetic.
The European Space Agency, which plans “to develop earth-guided surgical space robots… for future surgeries from a distance – in space or on Earth,” backed the project, according to the AP.
This wasn’t the first time the participating doctors accomplished such a feat. In 2003, they were the first to perform complex microsurgery under zero-gravity conditions when they repaired the artery in a rat’s tail. The doctors plan to use the experience as part of a feasibility study for the future possibility of surgery in space.

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