Can a doctor from the earth be able to treat an astronaut out there in space? Well, a new study suggests it is possible! According to a new case study, an unidentified astronaut aboard the International Space Station had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood clot in the jugular vein of their neck.
Two months past a six-month mission, an ultrasound of one of the astronauts has identified a blood clot. NASA researchers had to act quickly to treat the unexpected risk when they doubted such a possibility of a blood clot in one of their astronauts during a long-duration stay on the space station. A second ultrasound, guided in real-time from scientists and radiologists on the ground, confirmed the findings. The radiologists interpreted the results of the ultrasound immediately. Since the astronaut never had any such risk before, the analysed the risk of the blood clot and its potential to block a vessel in the absence of gravity.
To treat and control the situation, NASA sought the help of one of the experts Stephan Moll, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. Dr Moll was the only Non-NASA physician consulted to help come up with a treatment plan for the clot. Dr Moll is a member of the University Of North Carolina’s Blood Research Center and is a blood clot expert.
“My first reaction when NASA reached out to me was to ask if I could visit the International Space Station to examine the patient myself,” Dr Moll said. “NASA told me they couldn’t get me up to space quickly enough, so I proceeded with the evaluation and treatment process from here in Chapel Hill,” he added.
“Normally the protocol for treating a patient with deep vein thrombosis would be to start them on blood thinners for at least three months to prevent the clot from getting bigger and to lessen the harm it could cause if it moved to a different part of the body such as the lungs,” Moll said. “There is some risk when taking blood thinners that if an injury occurs, it could cause internal bleeding that is difficult to stop. In either case, emergency medical attention could be needed. Knowing there are no emergency rooms in space, we had to weigh our options very carefully.” Moll spoke with the astronaut during a phone call from space, consulting with them as if they were one of his other patients.
The astronaut’s blood clot was treated with Enoxaparin, a drug delivered by an injection into the skin for about 40 days. On the 43rd day of the astronaut’s treatment, a supply of Apixaban, a pill to be taken orally arrived at the ISS on an unspecified cargo resupply spacecraft.
The treatment process lasted more than 90 days, and during that time the astronaut closely monitored the blood clot by performing ultrasounds on their neck with guidance from a radiology team on Earth. Moll also spoke with the astronaut through email and phone calls.
The astronaut landed safely on Earth at the end of their six-month mission, and the blood clot required no further treatment.
Moll said there’s a need for more research on how blood and blood clots behave in space. co-wrote a case study on the successful treatment that was published in the New England Journal of Medicine. NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor, a medical doctor who served as a flight engineer at the ISS for six months in 2018, during Expeditions 56 and 57, is the lead author on the study.
“These new findings demonstrate that the human body still surprises us in space,” Auñón-Chancellor said in a statement. “We still haven’t learned everything about Aerospace Medicine or Space Physiology.”
The blood clot was detected during a vascular study of 11 astronauts on the station to assess the effect of space on the internal jugular vein. In zero gravity, astronauts’ blood and tissue fluid shift towards the head.
The study involved nine men and two women with an average age of 46. The identities of the astronauts were not included in the study.

Source:, CNN Health.

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