The advent of human space flight has brought about the need for physicians to remotely monitor space crews for signs of mission—impacting medical problems. Some of these early space biomedical systems were developed before similar technological advancements for terrestrial medicine were even considered [2]. Presently, the technological level of terrestrial health care has surpassed biomedical systems originally developed for space programs, and the challenge to space medicine is to determine which terrestrial medical technology should be adapted for space use and when that should occur. Spaceflight medical risks have become more apparent with long duration missions to low Earth orbit (LEO) aboard space stations such as Skylab, Mir, and the International Space Station (ISS) [3,4]. Under these circumstances, crewmembers with any existing subclinical deviations from the norm are in space for a fairly long period where the weightless environment presents a number of novel and potentially exacerbating factors. Although the crews are trained and equipped to handle minor medical conditions, a serious event could rapidly overwhelm the modest onboard medical capability and would almost certainly qualify as a medical emergency. Many of the conditions that could occur in space might present significant diagnostic and therapeutic challenges to even the most modern terrestrial health care facility. These factors conspire to limit the ability of a flight surgeon to make difficult decisions, such as discerning between initiating a medical evacuation back to Earth or remaining on orbit for treatment and additional observation. Obviously, these critical decisions should be based, if possible, on objective information and scientific, evidence-based approaches so that the best possible outcome is achieved with minimal impact to the mission.


Acute Appendicitis International Space Station Space Flight Parabolic Flight Aviat Space Environ 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ashot E. Sargsyan
    • 1
  1. 1.Wyle LaboratoriesHoustonUSA

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