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A Hermetically Sealed, Fluid-Filled Surgical Enclosure for Microgravity

journal contribution
posted on 01.12.2013, 00:00 by Jennifer A. Hayden, George M. Pantalos, James E. Burgess, James Antaki
Introduction: Expeditionary spaceflight is fraught with significant risks to human health, including trauma and other emergency medical events. To address several of the basic challenges of surgical care in reduced gravity, we are developing the Aqueous Immersion Surgical System (AISS), an optically clear enclosure pressurized by a fluid medium. The AISS is designed to prevent contamination of the spacecraft with blood and tissue debris, reduce intraoperative blood loss, and maintain visualization of the operative field. Methods: An early prototype of the AISS was tested in reduced gravity during parabolic flight. A clear, aqueous field was created in a watertight chamber containing a mock vascular network. Hemorrhage was simulated by severing several of the analogue vessels. Experiments were performed to evaluate the benefits of surrounding a surgical cavity with fluid medium, as compared to an air environment, with respect to maintaining a clear view and achieving hemostasis. Results: Qualitative evaluation of audio and video recorded during parabolic flight confirm AISS capacity to maintain visualization of the surgical field during a hemorrhage situation and staunch bleeding by raising interchamber pressure. Discussion: Evaluation of the AISS in reduced gravity corroborates observations in the literature regarding the difficulty in maintaining visualization of the surgical field when performing procedures in an air environment. By immersing the surgical field in fluid we were able to apply suction directly to the hemorrhage and also achieve hemostasis.