Surgery In Space

NASA surgeons have long pondered whether or not surgery in space is possible; it was tried by surgeon Mark Campbell in the "Vomit Comet" in 1991 with an anesthetized and restrained rabbit under micro-G conditions.


(Micro-G surgery a difficult option)

Campbell ignores the sensation of weightlessness as he takes a scalpel and carefully opens the rabbit’s carotid artery, then pulls back to watch. Initially, Campbell sees exactly what he expects. In zero gravity, bright red globes of blood streak out of the wound like paint balls fired from a gun.

But within seconds, the steady flow of globes diminishes and then stops while a dome of blood grows over the incision. Dismayed, Campbell makes his carotid incision larger to increase blood flow but the results are unchanged, and a cut into a major artery in the rabbit’s abdomen has the same result. “Finally we just figured out that that’s the way blood acts in weightlessness,” he says. “It didn’t act the way we thought it would.”

Currently, the International Space Station keeps a spare Russian Soyuz capsule for use as an ambulance in case surgery is needed.

Larry Niven thought carefully about this problem in his 1970 blockbuster novel Ringworld:

But they got him into the autodoc anyway. It was a puppeteer-shaped coffin, form-fitted to Nessus himself, and bulky Puppeteer surgeons and mechanics must have intended that it should handle any conceivable circumstance. But had they thought of decapitation? They had. There were two heads in there, and two more with necks attached, and enough organs and body parts to make several complete puppeteers. Grown from Nessus himself, probably; the faces on the heads looked familiar.
(Read more about Larry Niven's autodoc)

Other science-fictional options are also enclosed, like the crechpod from Frank Herbert's 1972 novel The Godmakers. Open models, like the diagnostat from Robert Silverberg's wonderful 1969 novel The Man in the Maze, are not used in space. Via AirSpaceMag.

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