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Suborbital Evaluation of an Aqueous Immersion Surgical System for Reduced Gravity

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Suborbital Evaluation of an Aqueous Immersion Surgical System for Reduced Gravity
The NASA Space Technology Roadmap identifies the need for surgical capabilities for exploration space flight with research and development planned for 2015 to 2025. In microgravity (μ-G) or partial gravity working environments, control and containment of the wound site is required to prevent wound and cabin contamination, maintain acceptable visualization of the field, avoid gaseous embolization in the patient, and control bleeding. To address these requirements, an aqueous immersion surgery system (AISS) is being jointly developed by the University of Louisville and Carnegie Mellon University. The AISS dome creates a hermetically sealed field that controls and staunches bleeding during surgery or treatment of trauma by isolating the wound while leveraging endoscopic surgical techniques and instruments currently in clinical use. The AISS is developed to the point where initial investigator-tended evaluation during parabolic flight has identified strengths and weaknesses of the current component designs (TRL 4/5). Based on these findings, AISS design advances in components and initial subsystem assemblies have been fabricated and are undergoing laboratory testing. The applicants anticipate a time in 2016 when, after further research and development, that the AISS will benefit from evaluation in the extended exposure to 0-G during suborbital flight. This is particularly critical for aspects of AISS function that require more than the 12 to 20 seconds of reduced gravity created during parabolic flight maneuvers, especially the immersion fluid behavior during the filling process of the AISS dome. Evaluation of AISS performance on SpaceShipTwo will make it possible to critically validate AISS filling performance in a relevant environment to approach the requirements of TRL 6. AISS performance to be investigated include (1) evaluation of the immersion fluid filling patterns for three candidate AISS dome geometries, (2) evaluation of an automated subsystem to fill the AISS domes with immersion fluid, (3) evaluation of an automated subsystem to detect complete filling of the AISS dome and turn off the filling pump and valves, (4) evaluation of the emptying of the AISS during partial gravity, and (5) evaluation of the regulation of AISS pressure when fully filled. This procedure will be conducted during a suborbital flight so that fluid behavior at a lower, more stable, AISS dome filling rate not possible during parabolic flight can be examined along with other performance tasks. The findings from this suborbital evaluation will result in the final dome design selection and revision of the AISS control system needed to successfully create an AISS flight prototype (TRL 6). Ultimately, it is anticipated that a flight-qualified version of the AISS will result that enables the conduct of safe and effective wound care and surgical procedures in the reduced gravity environment of exploration space flight. This proposal responds to the NASA Space Technology Roadmap, NASA Human Health, Life Support and Habitation Systems Technology, Area 6, Section 2.3 (Human Health and Performance) that calls for medical assist robotics for laparoscopic surgery and a surgical suite with sterile, closed-loop fluid and ventilation systems for trauma and other surgeries. This proposal also addresses issues of relevance to the Exploration Medical Capability element of the NASA Human Research Program, particularly the List of Medical Conditions that includes skin laceration and surgical treatment. In addition, this proposal is consistent with the 2014 NRC Report that states “Apart from the effects of weightlessness, crew physiology would be threatened by other factors, such as space radiation, illness, and injuries. . . . . Highly capable diagnostic and treatment equipment, including surgical facilities designed for operation in-space and on the surface would reduce threats posed by injuries and illness . . . .” More »

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