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French Doctors to Perform Zero-Gravity Surgery

ScuttleMonkey posted about 8 years ago | from the like-52-card-pickup-only-more-fun dept.

222

STFS writes "NewScientistSpace has a story about a team of French doctors who will attempt the worlds first zero-gravity operation on a human aboard an Airbus A300 dubbed "Zero-G". The patient, according to forbes.com, was chosen because of his experience with 'dramatic gravitational shifts' as an avid bungee-jumper. The operation will serve as a test for performing surgery in space."

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fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194195)

final post

Does the robot (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194213)

run on linux with broadband included?

If thats like the Vomit Comet... (5, Interesting)

patio11 (857072) | about 8 years ago | (#16194217)

... I predict some serious mishaps for all involved. The Vomit Comet is a NASA plane which they use to simulate 0G conditions by the simple expedient of taking the plane up really high and then flying it towards the ground, then pulling up and repeating. As I recall the cycle between weightless and "really freaking heavy" takes about 60 seconds, with about half of that time being weightless. Any more and the plane ends up as NASA's 453rd "premature interface of craft and planet". So the surgery would be stopping and starting constantly, and as most surgeries aren't five-minute affairs I can imagine that would be a little irksome.

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (2, Interesting)

aussie_a (778472) | about 8 years ago | (#16194279)

I've seen footage of people on the Vomit Comet, and for something that's supposedly weightless, it's amazing how much time they spent on the floor of the plane, or drifting towards it. It wasn't really weightless so much as really-really-light.

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (4, Informative)

Mini-Geek (915324) | about 8 years ago | (#16194547)

It wasn't really weightless so much as really-really-light.
Even in space, it is not actually 'weightless', there is still the gravity that holds the celestial bodies in orbit. While the plane may make it more like .01 G instead of .000001 G, it's not as if it's entirely a different thing from being in space (microgravity is the term).

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (4, Funny)

buswolley (591500) | about 8 years ago | (#16194617)

You never know...If they fall as fast as did the Maginot Line..

WARNING (5, Funny)

Ruff_ilb (769396) | about 8 years ago | (#16194707)

Warning. Your joke has been deemed too sophisticated/intelligent for /. Given your high karma, would you like to:

1) Insert a less complicated insult about the French, perhaps belittling their manliness?
2) Boringly clarify your remark with a link to Wikipedia (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maginot_Line)?
3) EXCITINGLY clarify your remark with a link to Uncyclopedia (http://www.uncyclopedia.org/wiki/Maginot_Line)?
4) Ignore?

Re:WARNING (2, Insightful)

buswolley (591500) | about 8 years ago | (#16195389)

Well, I guess they think I am a troll...The question is... do they think I am a Nazi Troll? I am surely not. But I do think that the French made a huge military mistake in defense strategy against the German threat.

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (1)

Monkelectric (546685) | about 8 years ago | (#16195597)

WWII Humor, gotta love it :)

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (1)

Ucklak (755284) | about 8 years ago | (#16194563)

Coming from someone who used to skydive on a regular basis, we used to do vomit comets on some trips to altitude. It depended on the pilot. We have about 2-5 seconds of weightlessness on tape and it was pretty cool.

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (1)

gstevens (209321) | about 8 years ago | (#16194731)

On the Vomit Comet, it's pretty-nearly zero-g (0.001-0.003 G's... you float) for about 25-26 seconds, and then there's a period (I wasn't keeping track of how long) for about 1 minute that's around 1.8 G. I would assume the ESA plane follows a pretty similar flight path. The transitions are *pretty* distinct.

(disclaimer: I rode on the Vomit Comet in August)

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (3, Funny)

Deadstick (535032) | about 8 years ago | (#16194307)

In the days before general anesthesia, surgeons used to pride themselves on their ability to take out an appendix or a bladder stone in 15-30 seconds...

rj

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (2, Funny)

Dan Guisinger (15506) | about 8 years ago | (#16194421)

Did they also pride themselves on the patients survival rate?

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194579)

I'm not sure if I could even tell the difference between a appendix or a bladder stone in 15-30 seconds....woops accidently took out your liver. Not important though, you have two of them.

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (2, Funny)

benplaut (993145) | about 8 years ago | (#16195757)

well.. maybe you have two of them, but the rest of us aren't as lucky!

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (1)

PakProtector (115173) | about 8 years ago | (#16195763)

I'm not sure if I could even tell the difference between a appendix or a bladder stone in 15-30 seconds....woops accidently took out your liver. Not important though, you have two of them.

Don't we all keep a few dozens of spare organs in the freezer?

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194757)

We replaced your heart with a baked potatoe. You have three seconds to live.

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194319)

Since this is /. after all, reading the linked artcile is strictly optional, of course
From the article
1) It is ESA and not NASA
2) They are doing the operation in 20 second increments
3) There will be 30 such spots when the actual operation is done
4) Whole flight will be 3 hours

Re:If thats like the Vomit Comet... (1)

diablo-d3 (175104) | about 8 years ago | (#16195857)

Don't forget that this has no realistic application, and may in fact put the patient's life at serious risk. Of course, it will also double or triple the monetary cost of such an operation...

Avid bungee-jumper (5, Funny)

Karloskar (980435) | about 8 years ago | (#16194231)

I bungy-jumped a couple of weeks ago and can't remember experiencing any dramatic changes in gravity. It was pulling me towards the ground for the entire jump.

Re:Avid bungee-jumper (1)

STFS (671004) | about 8 years ago | (#16194251)

The entire jump? Where exactly are you writing from???

Re:Avid bungee-jumper (1)

Thisfox (994296) | about 8 years ago | (#16194619)

I think they're referring to the point when the bungee makes you bounce back upward again, rather than the initial drop...

Re:Avid bungee-jumper (5, Funny)

kfg (145172) | about 8 years ago | (#16194745)

. . . they're referring to the point when the bungee makes you bounce back upward again. . .

Oh yeah. That's exactly when I want to have someone lean over me with a scalpel.

KFG

Re:Avid bungee-jumper (1)

Jesus IS the Devil (317662) | about 8 years ago | (#16195659)

I know this was a sarcastic post most likely, but while you are free falling, you are physically experiencing zero gravity.

Re:Avid bungee-jumper (2, Informative)

Karloskar (980435) | about 8 years ago | (#16195755)

I know this was a sarcastic post most likely, but while you are free falling, you are physically experiencing zero gravity.

No. When you are free-falling, you are experiencing acceleration due to gravity of 9.81(ish*) m/s^2. What isn't experienced is the upwards force keeping you stationary on the ground. There's a (massive) difference.

Scalpal... (1)

Mini-Geek (915324) | about 8 years ago | (#16194235)

Now instead of worrying about leaving the tools inside the person, they have to worry about the tools floating into the person.

What kind of surgery? (5, Funny)

aussie_a (778472) | about 8 years ago | (#16194239)

I sure hope it isn't a vasectomy.

Re:What kind of surgery? (5, Funny)

gardyloo (512791) | about 8 years ago | (#16194257)

I sure hope it isn't a vasectomy.

      Oh, it's not. At first.

Re:What kind of surgery? (1)

mlloyd67 (545111) | about 8 years ago | (#16194301)

Or a circumcision...

Re:What kind of surgery? (-1, Troll)

pnewhook (788591) | about 8 years ago | (#16194683)

Or a circumcision...

They're performing a simple surgery, not a barbaric mutilation.

Re:What kind of surgery? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194453)

Actually, consdering the history of bungee jumping and volunteering for this 'experiment', I hope it is a vasectomy.

Fweeet! You! Out of the gene pool! Now!

Re:What kind of surgery? (1)

yincrash (854885) | about 8 years ago | (#16194479)

It might be the only operation they will have time for.

It's going to be quick, bloodless and easy! (1)

EmbeddedJanitor (597831) | about 8 years ago | (#16194815)

22 seconds, then you have to stop, sets serious limits to what you can really do. Don't want a weightless bleeder squirting weightless blood all over the place.

Actually a vasectomy wouldn't be a bad choice.

I've had that done. (5, Informative)

Ungrounded Lightning (62228) | about 8 years ago | (#16194875)

Sounds like removal of a "lipoma". (I've had a few of those removed.)

Think of it as "cancer of the fat" - except benign. You get stiff fatty lumps (maybe one, maybe a scattering, maybe like a bunch of grapes). They're like regular fat with some kind of other tissue in them that makes them hard.

It's really annoying if it's above a muscle or some other easily hurt tissue: It's like a rock embedded in the fat that is SUPPOSED to be cushioning the tissue, so lying on it bruises the tissue instead.

They never go malignant so doctors will leave them in unless they're bruising something underneath or causing a disfiguring bump. They're near the surface of the skin so they're easy to cut out - usually by a dermatologist.

Sounds like the perfect test operation. Not a big deal if they don't get it all, near the surface so you don't have to cut through vital stuff or clamp stuff out of the way to get to it, etc. Easy to tell how well the op went. Much less opportunity for screwups than just about any other surgery.

Outer Space (1)

Iron (III) Chloride (922186) | about 8 years ago | (#16194243)

Sending crops to outer space has made them bigger/more powerful ... is this bungee jumper going to turn into superman after the surgery? Let's wait and see ...

Brilliant (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194245)

Well, the flight will be aided because the design by an elevator manufacturer is sure to give every one a lift!

And once again. (3, Funny)

Spazntwich (208070) | about 8 years ago | (#16194253)

Re:And once again. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194271)

Aha! And IMDB is apparently ahead of you by 7 years:

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0274518 [imdb.com]

Re:And once again. (1)

Spazntwich (208070) | about 8 years ago | (#16194347)

Sir, I find your ideas intriguing and would like to subscribe to your newspaper.

Re:And once again. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194599)

No, you don't.

Believe me.

zero-g in the atmosphere. (2)

joe_bruin (266648) | about 8 years ago | (#16194255)

If this plane is the same as what we Americans call the Vomit Comet [wikipedia.org] , this surgery is soon to be followed by the first malpractice lawsuit in zero-gravity.

Definitely tiring... (5, Informative)

RuBLed (995686) | about 8 years ago | (#16194275)

From the TFA: "The European space plane, a specially-adapted Airbus A300 operated out of Bordeaux, flies in a series of roller-coaster like parabolas, creating between 20 and 22 seconds of weightlessness at the top of the curve, a process repeated around 30 times for a 3-hour flight.

As well as the challenge of working in zero gravity, the surgical team will have to halt their work each time the plane pulls out and gravity resumes."


22 seconds multiplied by 30 is 660 seconds, that is only 11 minutes of surgery for 3 hours. I wonder if that tumor could be removed during this 3 hour session.

(I'm getting dizzy already, I'm not a rollercoaster type of person)

Animals first? (5, Insightful)

racecarj (703239) | about 8 years ago | (#16194311)

I am a doctor, and this is the worst type of medicine: publicity medicine. The goal is to get on the news rather than patient care. If these guys really wanted to experiment (and it is an experiment) with low-gravity surgery they would be doing it on animals long before human trials. With surgery, there are so many complications that cannot be predicted. Who knows how low-gravity affects clotting? Perhaps this guy will have a pulmonary embolus and die... there are a million what if's here that be accounted for and it's irresponsible at the least.

Re:Animals first? (5, Informative)

STFS (671004) | about 8 years ago | (#16194383)

From the article:

"Martin's team laid the groundwork for Wednesday's operation in October 2003, with an operation on a 0.5 millimetre-wide (.01 inch) rat tail's artery."

Re:Animals first? (1)

racecarj (703239) | about 8 years ago | (#16194451)

one operation does not prove it is safe. that't like saying that guns aren't lethal because someone who got shot lived.

Re:Animals first? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16195069)

IF it was proven safe, it wouldn't be a research project that people would volunteer for specially outside of normal medicine.

If no procedure was ever done before it was proven safe, then no procedure would ever be proven safe, and medicine would grind to a halt.

Re:Animals first? (5, Funny)

Karloskar (980435) | about 8 years ago | (#16194483)

0.5 millimetre-wide (.01 inch)

And this is why space-probes are lost.

Re:Animals first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194975)

I just call it rounding error. As in, oops I rounded down instead of up ;)

Re:Animals first? (1)

tilde_e (943106) | about 8 years ago | (#16194671)

Why is the parent "Insightful"? Animals can't consent to such things as I'm sure the patient in TFA did, just as he would have to sign a consent to let NASA send him into orbit.

Re:Animals first? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194967)

Why is the parent "Insightful"? Animals can't consent to such things as I'm sure the patient in TFA did, just as he would have to sign a consent to let NASA send him into orbit.
That's correct, animals are incapable of consenting, which is why we don't have to ask them!

Re:Animals first? (1)

achesterase (918544) | about 8 years ago | (#16195353)

Um, with that sort of reasoning all animal testing would be unethical / impermissible.

Re:Animals first? (1)

FlyingGuy (989135) | about 8 years ago | (#16194781)

Ohhhh stop whining! This is a small fatty tumor in someones forearm! Nothing ITFA says anything about its size and location. For all you know it could be sub-Q and a few cm in size.

This could be done with a local with a slightly heavier then normal Epi load, very little bleading, capilary at best with the remote possibility that the tumors connective tissue blood supply is slightly larger then capilary.

So stop beging so critical of a surgical team taking the next step in understanding the dynamics of zero-g work.

And FURTHER more, stop complaining about French doctors. I doubt they would have committed the same sin as American doctors by leaving thousands of cases of syphilis untreated in poor, mostly illiterate, black men just to see what the "outcome" was, or did you forget that part you hepicratical [purposeful mangling or the word] moron.

Re:Animals first? (1)

venicebeach (702856) | about 8 years ago | (#16194923)

Yeah, who would do such a reckless thing? It's like bungee jumping for christ's sake!

Re:Animals first? (4, Interesting)

NMerriam (15122) | about 8 years ago | (#16195417)

If these guys really wanted to experiment (and it is an experiment) with low-gravity surgery they would be doing it on animals long before human trials.

It has been done on animals. I worked with a NASA surgical research group for years and one of the many projects we did was surgical simulation (both computer with haptic feedback and with traditional box simulators) in microgravity. Other groups did surgical procedures on animals in microgravity. We've flown every possible piece of the puzzle, many times. This is the logical next step, and yes it is experimental, but that's what researchers do.

There are many things that could go wrong, and no doubt they'll tell the pilot to level the plane if that happens. Being in control of the gravity makes it a lot safer than trying it for the first time in an emergency aboard the space station. Sooner or later this has to be done -- I admit when I first heard this story on the news, I was hoping it was my old group doing it.

Re:Animals first? (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195563)

Hey Doc... While I do agree with you that publicity medicine isn't such a good idea... you may be interested in reading these publications [google.com] to learn more about the history of surgical research in microgravity.

Somehow I knew that France was involved (-1, Troll)

electrogeek_dot_com (1000932) | about 8 years ago | (#16194331)

Leave it to the French. Now why would they have to operate at zero gravity? To see the guys blood floating through the air? I think they would be better off trying to design an environment that simulates gravity in space to make the operation more stable rather than learn to operate in a non gravity environment. Glad I'm not that patient!

Zero gravity may be a benefit (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194449)

It may actually be helpful to certain surgeries that their is no gravity .. I am not a surgeon so I dunno. But it just seems there may be occasions where you may want to reach something and mass keeps falling down over it. Also, more than likely they wont have a cheap way of simulating gravity ..in a centrifuge type situation the "artificial gravity" forces actually vary towards the center if you are standing on it .. this too poses a new situation. It may be less expensive to simply know how to deal with the rare instances where minimally invasive surgery is required. Otherwise the mission itself may not happen cause of prohibitive costs.

Good Grief! (4, Funny)

Etherwalk (681268) | about 8 years ago | (#16194403)

And we wonder why medical costs are getting so out of hand. =)

Re:Good Grief! (1)

chris_eineke (634570) | about 8 years ago | (#16195043)

I think we can recoup these costs by strapping a couple of bombs onto the plane and flying it over enemy territory. ;)

Re:Good Grief! (2, Funny)

soft_guy (534437) | about 8 years ago | (#16195151)

I think we can recoup these costs by strapping a couple of bombs onto the plane and flying it over enemy territory

We get paid for bombing people? That would explain a lot about US foreign policy.

I can imagine after the surgery... (5, Funny)

bronzey214 (997574) | about 8 years ago | (#16194433)

Good news Mr. Brown, we removed the tumor! Followed by, "We're going to have to put you under again because your liver floated away."

Nurse, help! (3, Interesting)

Acidictadpole (813697) | about 8 years ago | (#16194523)

I wonder what they will do for the Zero-G counterpart to suction, usually on Earth, gravity holds the blood at the base of the operating platform (usually the back) and they have a suction tube designed to remove the blood that gets in the way.. In Zero-G however, the blood may be flying all around the cabin, how would they contain the blood flying around?

Re:Nurse, help! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16194655)

By using suction?

Re:Nurse, help! (4, Insightful)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195319)

Probably constant dabbing with sponges or gauze would be useful in stopping the blood from flying away...but keep in mind...the surface tension of blood will keep it sticky to the site of incision, the instruments, and to their gloves. That is of course assuming they don't cut a high pressure spurting artery...then all bets are off. Point is, I don't think this minor surgery will dig that deep.

Having spent a lot of time in microgravity, my main concern would be in keeping the area sterile. Dust, hair, and everything else floats around a lot better in microgravity...and keeping particulate matter out of the incision site is going to be a task. It's hard enough to keep the planes clean of the big dirt from your shoes...it doesn't take much to spread microscopic contaminants

I wonder? (4, Funny)

DuranDuran (252246) | about 8 years ago | (#16194551)

Did anybody else immediately think of that Zero G porn film from a few years ago?

Like I did?

I'll get my coat.

Oh C'mon... (1)

HatchedEggs (1002127) | about 8 years ago | (#16194647)

Seriously, we already had to worry about things falling in while the doctor had us splayed open... now we have to worry about things falling out.

Hrmm, 30 seconds to perform a surgery? Oh no, even better.. we're going to tell the guy to hold on for 10 minutes while we gain enough altitude to drop again. Super. Just pony up the extra bucks and pay Bigelow to throw a couple docs and a patient up in one of his balloons.

Too Risky? (1)

DaveWick79 (939388) | about 8 years ago | (#16194687)

From the Article "to bring a wounded person back to Earth for treatment is both risky for them and expensive" It sounds to me like to do surgery on them in space via a robotic interface controlled from earth would be even more risky and even more expensive. Of course, right now they don't have a very good way of getting someone back to earth quickly if they needed to. They don't have enough shuttle launch locations to prevent weather from fouling up a launch, and it could be days before a shuttle would be able to return, like the situation with flying debris that delayed this last shuttle re-entry.

Re:Too Risky? (1)

benicillin (990784) | about 8 years ago | (#16195171)

They don't have enough shuttle launch locations to prevent weather from fouling up a launch


and if "they" did, does it seem likely they would be able to just pick up the spaceship and wheel it somewhere else for liftoff?

What's the point? (0)

Millenniumman (924859) | about 8 years ago | (#16194709)

What is the point of this? Needlessly endangering someone? Is there some great need for surgery in space? Are there aliens civilizations who need surgery?

Re:What's the point? (2, Informative)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16195011)

Is there some great need for surgery in space?


With a continuously occupied space facility, private ventures planning to establish "space hotels", and with plans (mentioned in TFA) to establish a permanently inhabited moon base in the next few decades, possibly followed by manned missions to Mars which will take a very long time in transit, yes, there is a reasonably predictable, not too distant future need to have techniques available to perform surgeries in low and zero gravity.

Conducting a fairly low risk surgery under conditions where return to gravity and to earthbound facilities in reasonable time are not impractical seems to me a reasonable way to approach the development of such techniques. Of course, there is always a risk associated with such experimentation. which is why you have informed consent of a volunteer subject.

Re:What's the point? (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 8 years ago | (#16195673)

Is there some great need for surgery in space?

There will be. Most space agencies figure it's a good idea to figure out how to do it now, rather than in the 24 hours someone has to survive.

As opposed to... (1)

SupplyMission (1005737) | about 8 years ago | (#16194851)

From TFA:
"...though it would at first be limited to treating simple, accidental injuries."

As opposed to complicated, intentional injuries?

Re:As opposed to... (1)

Thisfox (994296) | about 8 years ago | (#16194897)

Simple accidental injuries in space as opposed to more complex injuries which would require the person to be shipped to a place with gravity for the operation, such as Earth or any handy moon that was nearby...

I don't know about the "accidental" versus "intentional" part though. Possibly a result of bad grammar on the part of the writer? Perhaps they're referring to appendicitis or stomach ulcers, not a result of accidents, but still requiring essential surgery...

ISS (2, Interesting)

tonigonenstein (912347) | about 8 years ago | (#16194855)

As others have pointed out, performing surgery 30 seconds at a time doesn't make sense and doesn't reflect the reality of being in micro-gravity during the whole operation. Why don't they do this kind of experiments on the ISS ? It was supposed to be a micro-gravity science laboratory. (Or was it a scheme to maintain 15'000 jobs at NASA ? I don't remember).

Re:ISS (2, Insightful)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16195029)

As others have pointed out, performing surgery 30 seconds at a time doesn't make sense and doesn't reflect the reality of being in micro-gravity during the whole operation. Why don't they do this kind of experiments on the ISS ?
Because if something unexpectedly goes wrong in surgery on the ISS, you can't restore gravity and/or return to earth in any reasonable period of time.

Re:ISS (4, Interesting)

tftp (111690) | about 8 years ago | (#16195103)

They don't do it on ISS likely because it makes no sense. They do other medical experiments there, less risky and not so newsworthy - but probably more valuable. Like surgery on rats, for example (I remember something like that being announced some time ago.)

TFA mentions an accident during a low spaceflight. Well, read Baxter's "Titan" for example. But if you are not suicidal enough for that, it might be enough to note that all space crews are trained in medicine; often one crewmember is a doctor, and everyone else is good enough to help.

Another issue is that you can't compare 30-second drops and 9-minute climbs, with gravity swinging from 0 to 2G, and a quiet, stable zero gravity of a spacecraft. Who can do *anything* well in a Vomit Comet? This stunt has no value.

Re:ISS (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195231)

To say that this stunt has no value is to also say that all parabolic flight research has no value.

Fortunately for those of us whom are educated and are more aware of the value of performing ground controls and flight testing of a procedure before certification and implementaton, we have a body of evidence to prove our point.

May I suggest a quick perusal of the body of literature [google.com] to further understand the true utility of parabolic flight research

Re:ISS (1)

tftp (111690) | about 8 years ago | (#16195365)

Parabolic flight research has as much value as any other technique. However the GP asked for a narrow comparison between a surgery on ISS and a surgery on the airplane. In my opinion the ISS is far more suited for any experimental surgeries, on animals or on humans, because it offers stable and continuous microgravity for the duration of the surgery. If a patient's tissues are cut open the last thing he wants is a 2G gravity squirting the blood out every 10 minutes, and sucking air bubbles into the blood stream when the weightlessness returns (that usually kills.) This won't happen on ISS; we have it, and if the need exists we should use it, and not a cheaper and more dangerous imitation. Do crew training on VCs, no problem. But wielding scalpels in varying gravity sounds like a bad idea.

And since another poster wondered about emergency recovery, I would suggest performing a surgery on an animal, like a dog, if not a human, immediately before a crew is scheduled to return to Earth. In need they could be on the ground in 15 minutes, faster even than an airplane can descend from its 40,000 ft. and find a place to land.

Re:ISS (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195383)

I would suggest performing a surgery on an animal Done. Thirteen years ago. [nih.gov]

Re:ISS (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 8 years ago | (#16195547)

Who can do *anything* well in a Vomit Comet? This stunt has no value.

We have run many surgical simulation missions onboard the KC-135, and there's plenty of research value. What happens on the ISS is very conservative and small scale, because it's so darn expensive to fly a pound of material up there.

You just don't do anything during the 2g period (which only lasts about 45 seconds). You're right, it isn't exactly the same as space, but it's also not as dangerous or as expensive. We try things out first on the ground, then in the plane, and finally if everything goes right, in space.

...And after the return to gravity? (3, Interesting)

Thisfox (994296) | about 8 years ago | (#16194857)

What will the patient be like after returning to gravity?

I seem to remember that in the development of the X-ray a lot of people were treated for depression of the organs, or some such illness, which later turned out to be something that was caused by the machines taking the photographs, and only caused when the photographs were being taken in the first place. Peoples' organs weren't actually in the wrong place, they were being displaced by the heavy equipment, until the equipment went away again...

I can imagine a situation where they do the operation, then land, and find that when the body of the patient settles, the stitches pull out or the organs get twisted around and he has worse problems than he would have had if they'd stayed in a relatively constant gravitational pull.

Let alone the increases and decreases of gravity during the operation. "catch that kidney as it goes past, will you nurse? Oh, nevermind, it will change direction and return to it's rightful place in 5 more seconds..." Wow. It would be like a Monty Python sketch...

Re:...And after the return to gravity? (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16195097)

If kidneys are floating past in the course of a surgery to remove a fatty tumor from the forearm, then I'd guess that there is something fairly seriously wrong being done. Yeah, it would be prettty crazy to do surgery affecting major internal organs in this kind of experiment, but that's not what they are trying here.

Re:...And after the return to gravity? (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195197)

Moreover, it's important to realize the relativistic forces involved here...The tension of human skin is far stronger than the force of gravity exerted on the skin. Sutures are stronger...and will not come un ravelled by the reintroduction of a 9.8m/s^2 acceleration.

Given that I fly parabolas professionally, I can also attest that the 20m/s^2 during the pullout (climb) probably won't pull stiches out either

Seems worse this way than doing it in orbit... (2, Interesting)

Bones3D_mac (324952) | about 8 years ago | (#16194871)

Sure, keeping things close to the earth surface might allow for an easy abort in case of some catastrophic failure, but with the trade-off being that you'll have sharp objects in (and near) your body at constantly changing vectors and accelerations, it hardly seems worth the risk.

While I'm sure they have a fancy plan for blood containment (small incisions and tubes for tool insertion), a slip-up at the wrong time could create some interesting situations (like a stream of small, bloody spheres all over the place). Another issue are the various other fluids to contend with, such as stomach acid, anal leakage and urine. Unless they plan to completely block off every hole on the guy (catheter, stomach pump, intibation tubes, ass plug/vacuum, etc...), this could get messy pretty quick.

Aside from that, what ever became of ideas like one of those large rotating room to create pseudo-gravity using constant angular velocity?

Re:Seems worse this way than doing it in orbit... (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195041)

While you have a point; the simulation of microgravity during parabolic flight is certainly not precisely analogous to the microgravity experienced in orbit, it is important to realize that containment systems for the worst case scenarios you cite ("stream of blod" & "stomach acid, anal leakage, urine") ought to be tested in microgravity by choice before they are needed by force.

The low risk nature of this specific procedure will certainly give some insights into the methodology of incision and suturing in a microgravity environment. While there have been medical procedures performed upon experimental pigs and other analogs aboard NASA's KC-135 and C9...the importance of using volunteer human test subjects should not be overlooked

Moreover, it is more realistic to test surgical procedures in microgravity than to assume that all spacecraft will contain hypothetical rotating structures that will likely never see widespread use even when we become a spacefaring species

Re:Seems worse this way than doing it in orbit... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 8 years ago | (#16195127)

Aside from that, what ever became of ideas like one of those large rotating room to create pseudo-gravity using constant angular velocity?
They have to really fricking big (or at least on the end of a really big arm) otherwise, the "tidal" forces from different perceived gravity on different parts of your body could cause problems.

Re:Seems worse this way than doing it in orbit... (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 8 years ago | (#16195591)

fluids to contend with, such as stomach acid, anal leakage and urine.

LOL, I don't think this is the kind of flight you're thinking of :P

But seriously, this is not the first time any of these problems have been dealt with in microgravity. We've flown sutures and needles and liquids and all this other stuff before. The gound crew would not be taking these guys up if they couldn't explin what mechanisms were in place to prevent it all from getting out. I can't really tell from the stories circulating now, but I would imagine they'll be using mostly fixed instruments (as that's what we'd use for real surgery in space) and probably have a tent or container around the area to be worked on.

How totally unethical (-1, Troll)

QuantumG (50515) | about 8 years ago | (#16194885)

What next? First Nazi death camp in Zero-G?

Re:How totally unethical (4, Insightful)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16194977)

How unethical? How unecessary. If you actually took the time to read the story, you see that the guy is a VOLUNTEER. This type of research, on VOLUNTEERS, is a necessary thing if we are ever going to learn how to perform emergency procedures in microgravity. To compare this to a NAZI death camp is immature, irresponsible, and just plain ignorant.

Re:How totally unethical (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 8 years ago | (#16195039)

Sorry, it's still unethical. Doctors are held to a higher standard than other researchers.

Re:How totally unethical (2, Insightful)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195139)

It is NOT unethical. Do you even know the definition of ethics?
  1. The guy is a volunteer and has undergone months of microgravity training with the doctors.
  2. The procedure has been discussed and planned for a long time.
  3. The procedure itself is very minor surgery.
  4. The knowledge gained from this has the potential to save a life of an astronaut in space.

And to compare it to Nazi's is stupid.

May I suggest you read more about this story here [forbes.com]

Re:How totally unethical (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 8 years ago | (#16195215)

Excuse me, but it doesn't matter whether or not the guy volunteered. If there is a risk to his life and there is it is unethical for the doctor to do the surgery in anything but the best possible conditions. Compare it to, say, volunteering to have surgery done at home so as not to take up a hospital bed that someone else could use. The benefit to others is great. The patient has volunteered to be worked on at home, fully knowing the risk of infection. It's still not ethical. The doctor must refuse to perform the operation. I hope these bozos lose their licenses.

Re:How totally unethical (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195279)

If risk to a patient's life is a condition for making a medical procedure 'unethical' as you claim, than we might as well cease all surgeries and stick with asprin and band-aids. Oh wait, they have side effects too.

There is a risk to all surgery and medical treatement, and fortunately the medical community disagrees with your point of view.

Re:How totally unethical (2, Interesting)

ichigo 2.0 (900288) | about 8 years ago | (#16195431)

If there is a risk to his life and there is

FTA:
Working inside a custom-made operating block, three surgeons, backed by two anaesthetists and a team of army parachutists, will remove a fatty tumour from the forearm of an intrepid volunteer over the course of a three-hour flight.


I don't really see the risk. He'll probably be in less danger, as the operation isn't performed in a hospital, so no need to be worried of getting an infection resistant to antibiotics from a hospital strain of bacteria. I think the biggest risk comes from the possibility of a plane crash, but I guess that's what the parachutists are for. The operation is so minor that one can almost perform it on oneself. Maybe it's illegal in the US, or something like that, but I really don't see how it's unethical. I could be wrong, maybe the Hippocrates oath states that "you must not perform operations in suboptimal conditions on willing volunteers", but I suspect not.

Re:How totally unethical (1)

KillerBob (217953) | about 8 years ago | (#16195521)

There is nothing unethical about performing an experimental procedure on a volunteer. That's how medical knowledge gets advanced. Regardless of the outcome of this procedure, it'll help give insight into how to go about doing it in the future. It will save lives.

I mean... by your standards, we wouldn't have organ transplants, modern surgery, anaesthetics, any of the wonderdrugs we now consider must-haves, antibiotics, and a whole slew of other things that had to be tried on somebody first. How many lives have been saved by, say, penicillin? *somebody* had to be the first guinea pig. You think that was unethical?

Personally, I'd like to know what surgical procedure can be done in the 30s or so they have before gravity "returns". They are doing it with a parabolic flight trajectory, right?

Re:How totally unethical (1)

QuantumG (50515) | about 8 years ago | (#16195585)

All of those technologies were developed on volunteers who had no viable alternative. If a doctor believes a patient has a better chance of recovering/surviving an existing procedure than they do from a new experimental procedure, then it is malpractice to apply the experimental procedure, regardless of whether or not the patient volunteers. This is different in other professions, where researchers are free to seek out volunteers who are willing to do things not in their own best interest, but doctors are held to a higher standard than other researchers.

Re:How totally unethical (1)

motorbikematt (825008) | about 8 years ago | (#16195627)

Actually, that's not true for anesthesia [wikipedia.org]

Re:How totally unethical (1)

NMerriam (15122) | about 8 years ago | (#16195705)

I don't think you've ever participated in medical research or spoken to a real doctor about it. All research goes through a review board, and the primary critereon is that the risks be as minimal as possible and that the subject volunteers be fully informed. No research would ever take place if your standards applied, and all medical progress would halt since even the most benign advances require study in human populations before they are accepted by the medical community.

So what? (4, Funny)

kayditty (641006) | about 8 years ago | (#16195381)

It's not like this is rocket surgery or anything.

I'd sign up instantly to be the first patient if.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 8 years ago | (#16195393)

...they did my sex reassignment surgery (vaginoplasty) for free.
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