Some Problems Of Physiological Monitoring
Measurement of the physiological responses of an astronaut to the conditions of space flight may be employed for clinical or for experimental purposes, although no clear distinction between the two is usually attempted . The primary object of the former is the detection and diagnosis of disease or frank illness; the ultimate purpose is to ascertain the cause of death of the astronaut. Experimental observations, on the other hand, are concerned with the effects of the special conditions existing in space on the normal mechanisms of the body, and with the altered responses evoked by known stimuli applied in a strange and ill-defined environment.
These two types of monitoring require different methods, but certain basic problems are common to both. In the first place, it is often difficult to decide on the physiological variables which will give the desired information. Secondly, both the physician and the physiologist may be severely handicapped by the absence of techniques of measurement which can safely be used. Thirdly, it may be impossible to relay the information obtained to the ground-based laboratory. Another problem is that of ensuring a uniform interpretation of any abnormal responses observed at widely scattered monitoring stations, to which is allied the question of deciding upon the action to be taken should such an abnormality occur. Finally the collection, storage, and analysis of large quantities of recorded data presents difficulties which will become mQre acute as longer flights are made.
It is probable that recent developments in electronics and in computer techniques will help to solve some of these problems, and some promising approaches will be discussed in this paper. For the most part, however, progress in the field of physiological monitoring must depend upon new ideas from the research worker and the clinician.
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