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Human Spaceflight Capabilities

Automated Vascular Access for Spaceflight (PI: Bridgeman)

Completed Technology Project

Project Introduction

Automated Vascular Access for Spaceflight (PI: Bridgeman)
NOTE APRIL 2021: SEE ALSO BUCKLAND, DANIEL, MD, PhD. Original Principal Investigator (PI) was Daniel Buckland, MD, PhD; Leila Bridgeman, PhD, worked on the project from the beginning and now is PI due to Dr. Buckland's appointment to Intergovernmental Personnel Agreement, per Exploration Medical Capabilities element of Human Research Program.

An important step in medical care and research of astronauts involves testing blood or giving intravenous medications. Placing a catheter into a blood vessel takes some degree of training and takes up crewmember’s time. The goal of this project is to develop an automated technology that can identify blood vessels (such as a vein or artery), place a needle into the blood vessel, and then place a catheter into the blood vessel so that blood samples can be removed, and medications administered. The technology will operate under human supervision, but not require any active human control, to reduce the amount of training needed to operate it. The project will use a robotic arm with an attached ultrasound probe to automatically identify blood vessels using computer vision techniques, and then use that same robotic arm to insert the needle and catheter. Initial work will be done in simulations of human arms and then progress to human testing when determined safe. The significance of this work could lead to improved medical care of astronauts, as it will no longer require as many crew members or resources to start medical diagnosis and treatment. It could also allow for more complete automation or remote operation of medical care for astronauts. This technology could eventually help start medical care for patients on the ground who live in remote locations or do not have enough medical staff available.

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