Astronauts should be taught how to print out 3D medical equipment as missions get longer, with greater risk of health emergencies, experts say.
Intensive care doctors called for extra training for those embarking on space voyages, to cope with the unusual challenges of microgravity and limited storage room.
Astronauts should be told how to print out their own medical equipment, on demand, experts will tell a conference today.
And those preparing to go on such missions should be told how to perform livesaving techniques in a situation of microgravity, when it is not possible to use body weight in the same way.
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Methods include performing handstands to achieve cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), or wrapping the legs around a patient to stop them floating away,
Those planning space travel should also consider matching astronauts by blood group, to enable transfusions in space, the Euroanaesthesia conference in Geneva heard.
Professor Jochen Hinkelbein, President of the German Society for Aerospace Medicine, said goals for long-term missions, such as sending humans to Mars, meant allowing for the challenges of older age, as well as space-specific health risks.
“Since astronauts are selected carefully, are usually young, and are intensively observed before and during their training, relevant medical problems are, fortunately, rare in space,” he said.
“However, in the context of future long-term missions, for example to Mars, with durations of several years, the risk for severe medical problems is significantly higher. Therefore, there is also a substantial risk for a cardiac arrest in space requiring CPR.”
Dr Matthieu Komorowski, Consultant in Intensive Care and Anaesthesia, Charing Cross Hospital, London, said: “Space exploration missions to the Moon and Mars are planned in the coming years. During these long duration flights, the estimated risk of severe medical and surgical events, as well as the risk of loss of crew life are significant.”
Exposure to space itself disturbs most physiological systems and can trigger heart problems as well as decompression sickness and osteoporotic fractures.
Dr Komorowski said the measures had been inspired by the needs of medical care in austere environments such as Antarctic polar bases, expeditions to remote areas, and during military operations.
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These include ideas such as matching crew members for blood type to enable transfusions in an environment where blood products will not be available, or making use of on-demand 3D printing of medical equipment rather than carrying items that would most likely not be needed during the mission.
Research conducted by Prof Hinkelbein, executive senior physician at the University Hospital of Cologne, compared different methods of resuscitation in microgravity experiments.
The study conducted by his team found that using a “hand-stand’ technique” was the most effective way to treat a cardiac arrest and most closely matched the guidelines used here on Earth.
In situations where that method couldn’t be used such as small confined spaces, the next best alternative was to wrap the legs around the patient to prevent them floating away.
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To perform cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in space either use the “hand-stand” technique on top of the patient, or wrap the legs around the body, while carrying out compressions.
Train astronauts in how to print out the medical equipment they need “on demand” after health problems develop.
Consider matching those on a space mission by blood group, to enable tranfusions in an environment where blood products will not be available
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