New Ultrasound Medical Tools for Space Research

The remoteness and resource limitations of spaceflight pose a serious challenge to astronaut health care. One solution is ultrasound.

Scientists with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) have developed tools that expand the use of ultrasound during spaceflight and on Earth, especially in rural and underserved locations. These tools include techniques that streamline training and help remote experts guide non-physician astronauts to perform ultrasound exams. Ultrasound can be used to assess numerous conditions – fractured bones, collapsed lungs, kidney stones, organ damage and other ailments – in space and on Earth. With an NSBRI grant, they also created a catalog, or atlas, of “space-normal” imagery of the human body, setting the stage for astronauts to provide care without consulting a physician on Earth. This atlas was handed over to NASA earlier this year.

Dr. Scott A. Dulchavsky, the Roy D. McClure Chairman of Surgery and Surgeon-in-Chief at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, is the principal investigator of these projects and is a member of the NSBRI Smart Medical Systems and Technology Team. “The ultrasound imagery techniques came from space program constraints of not having a trained radiologist on orbit or having a CAT scan or an MRI available, forcing us to use ultrasound for things in which we would not normally use it,” Continue reading