Dr. George Pantalos and his team are pioneering futuristic surgical tools for operations on astronauts and testing them on NASA's zero-gravity plane.

SeekerPublished: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018
Published: July 10, 2018Updated: July 11, 2018

If you're an astronaut in need of medical care in space, you're going to want Dr. George Pantalos around. Working with teams from University of Louisville, NASA, Carnegie Mellon University, and Baylor College of Medicine, George and his students are pioneering surgical tools that are fundamental to the future of space travel.

Reduced-gravity environments provide a series of obstacles for emergency medicine. The first is the management of surgical and bodily fluids. "Without hydrostatic pressure, then surface tension... may predominate," George explains. That's when things get messy. "You need to anticipate ways of controlling the fluid." To address this, the team has developed a hemispherical dome placed over a surgical site to make sure the liquid "goes where you want it to go, and doesn't go where you don't want it to go." The surgeon can also complete the operation inside a specially designed "glove box," adapted from a prenatal incubator, to minimize cross-contamination.

Another obstacle is the reduced amount of space available to store supplies on the spacecraft. To keep medical kits as compact and lightweight as possible, George is creating multifunctional surgical tools. "During surgery on the earth, you might have one instrument to provide suction, you might have another instrument to provide cautery, another instrument to provide irrigation of the surgical site, and you might need some special lighting. We've created an instrument that combines all of those things together," he explains. The specialized designs for these tools are compatible with both 3-D printers and robotic hands... and just might be the next big break in surgical medicine here on Earth.

Finally, any form of water is a precious resource in spaceflight. That's where wound waste recovery comes in, a system that could potentially create sterile saline and drinkable water out of the leftover fluids from an operation.

If that sounds gross now, just remember to thank George on your next out-of-this-world vacation. "If we can accomplish this kind of medical care during an exploration space mission, there is a good chance we could do it, let's say, on a lunar colony that's been established for visitors to come and visit the moon."

This video, "Dr. George Pantalos and his team are pioneering futuristic surgical tools for operations on astronauts and testing them on NASA's zero-gravity plane.", first appeared on seeker.com.

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