Can An Appendectomy Fit In A Space Capsule: A Pilot Study
Margaret Siu, MD, Dana Levin, MD, Gladys Fernandez, MD, Tovy Haber Kamine, MD
University of Massachusetts Medical School-Baystate Medical Center, Springfield, MA
Background: This pilot study investigated the minimum volume needed to safely perform an open abdominal procedure to understand if current and planned spacecraft have sufficient volume to handle surgical emergencies should they occur.
Methods: The axes of a simulated operating room were marked and cameras placed to capture movements. An expert surgeon, chief surgical resident, junior surgical resident, and a non-surgeon physician each performed a Focused Assessment with Sonography for Trauma and an open appendectomy on a simulated patient. A second participant intubated and monitored the simulated patient. Time and volume data were collected and compared using unpaired t-tests.
Results: Mean volume needed to complete all tasks was 3.83 m^3±0.47 for standing and 3.68m^3±0.49 for kneeling, p=0.72. There were differences in the x, y, and z dimensions between the two groups, X: 90.1cm±5.0 v. 121.1cm±6.8, p=0.04; Y: 210.5cm±22.7 v. 237.5cm±3.8, p=0.08; Z: 174.4cm±5.0 v. 127.7cm±13.4 p<0.01. Differences between Seniors (attending and PGY5) and Juniors (PGY2 and non-surgery physician) were not significant (3.78m^3±0.41 and 3.74m^3±0.53, respectively, p=0.90).
Conclusion: The habitable volume of capsules ranges from 8.95m^3 (NASA’s Orion) to 916m^3 (International Space Station). Future vehicles range from NASA’s Gateway Lunar Station at 125m^3 to SpaceX’s Starship at 825m^3. Mean volume to perform kneeling appendectomy was 3.68m^3. Even the smallest of these spacecraft may accommodate simple open abdominal procedures. However, this study included only 4 participants and does not account for environmental aspects of spaceflight such as microgravity.
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