One of the last talks I attended in Phoenix before heading out to Puerto Rico was this great one on emergency medicine in space.
The gentleman who gave the presentation spends his time as an emergency room surgeon. In addition, he works with NASA and others on medicine in space.
There are quite a few standard techniques which work on the earth but not in space. For instance, CPR cannot be done as it is on earth. Think about. If there is no gravity, the person will not be laying on the ground and you cannot pump the chest because if you do, you'll just push them the opposite direction. Instead, you have to use a modified Heimlich maneuver to get the same effect.
One big effect of going into the space right now involves a decrease in the volume of plasma by between 10% and 20 % which is equivalent to a class one hemorrhage. If a person is cut, their blood tends to form bubbles before floating off. In addition, if you need to insert an I.V. you cannot place a needle in a vein without using suction because the lack of gravity makes it harder to tell if the needle is in place.
Since there is no gravity, both men and women suffer from a decrease in bone density of up to 30% but the good news is, at the moment, they can regain their original bone density fairly quickly after returning to the earth. The medical community is checking to see if a certain amount of decrease can be prevented in women by administering certain medications. Apparently these medications do not work in the men.
Another interesting piece is that in space, men suffer from urinary tract infections at higher rates than women due to the nature of their plumbing. Women's rates are about the same in space as on earth. Furthermore, rates for kidney stones increases in space but they don't have anything they can really do. It has been noticed that medications behave differently in space. There is decreased absorption, altered distribution, and altered excretion.
The gentleman showed us pictures of first aid kits through time. The first ones had three syringes of medicine including something for motion sickness but no band aids or anything to take care of bleeding. By the time Apollo arrived, the first aid kit had improved tremendously and included band aids. Now for the International Space Station, they have a huge first aid kit, including a defibrillation unit.
It was fascinating because much of what we know, especially what to do in an emergency, is based on a place with gravity. Now as they work out the medicine astronauts might have to use on an extended trip to Mars, they are having to change the basics.
By the time you read this, I will be in San Juan Puerto Rico attending another conference. Tomorrow I hope to share photos of Phoenix. I am taking pictures of Puerto Rico which I will share with later. I will also report on a couple more talks I attended in Phoenix that were absolutely fascinating.