The BMJ 2012 Christmas issue is the gift that keeps on giving. We’ve already posted about the study that shows that noticing your discomfort on the trip to the hospital could be more useful than the doc poking your belly when diagnosing acute appendicitis, but the Christmas issue also talks about longer trips, like ones to and from space. In two separate articles the journal covers medical issues of both Earthlings and the most famous extraterrestrial E.T..
The first, “Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctors,” is by lead author Marlene Grenon of USCF Medical Center and others (including a Flight Surgeon for the Canadian Space Agency and the Medical Director for Virgin Galactic). Grenon et al. lay out the current and expected market for private human spaceflight and then the issues MDs should be aware of when considering if a patient is healthy enough to fly to space. Notably, they present a small case study of a previous private spaceflight participant:
A 57 year old entrepreneur, engineer, and scientist [Dr. Gregory Olsen] flew to the International Space Station as a private citizen through a self funded trip in 2005. His pre-flight medical clearance was complicated by a history of bullous emphysema, spontaneous pneumothorax with talc pleurodesis, and a lung parenchymal mass. The doctors decided that he should have video assisted thoracoscopic pleurodesis and lung biopsies before flying, and he was able to complete his 10 day mission without medical problems.
By any measure this patient was not what most people consider to be in “elite” health, but he still flew to the ISS for 10 days without incident. From this and other data the authors report that the FAA has decided to be pretty hands-off when deciding what medical qualifications are needed for private spaceflight customers, leaving it up to the customer and their doctor. The article is open-access, and provides a good overview of some of the medical issues of spaceflight.
In the second article, “Case report of E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial” by Gregory Scott and Edward Presswood, the authors use archival footage from the 80s to “report the medical case of ET. (They) describe his anatomy and pathophysiology, examine his medical care, and shed light on his glowing digits and luminous heart.” Unfortunately, the article is behind the BMJ paywall, so only subscribers find out the answers.
BMJ: Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctors (open access)
BMJ:Case report of E.T.—The Extra-Terrestrial (subscription required)