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Mars Medicine Space Science

Virtual Reality Helmet Designed For Deep Space Surgery 83

Posted by samzenpus
from the wearing-the-doctor-hat dept.
pigrabbitbear writes in with a link about a virtual reality helmet designed to help people deal with medical emergencies in space. "Humans are pretty fragile. A bad break in your hip can mean surgery and months of rehab. That's pretty bad, but what if you fall and break your hip on the Moon, or even Mars? You'd be hundreds of thousands or millions of miles from a fully stocked hospital and a surgeon with steady hands. There's the option of doctor-assisted surgery from Earth — a fellow astronaut performing the surgery with remote assistance from a doctor via video link. But the lengthy communications delay make this a poor option anywhere further than the Moon. Luckily for our Mars-bound descendants, the European Space Agency has a solution: an information-loaded assisted reality helmet that will let anyone identify and perform minor surgery to repair injuries."
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Virtual Reality Helmet Designed For Deep Space Surgery

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  • Fred."
    http://people.tribe.net/turtle/photos/2dbfad5a-28c5-499d-a624-e02c1f526c2a [tribe.net]

    Break your hip on the Moon? Who'd you think you were, trying to be all "Michael Jackson" with that footwork?

    • If you thought a half-second of lag was a bitch in the middle of your CS game, wait until you have to deal with 45 minutes of lag in the middle of your zero-G surgical procedure!

  • by virgnarus (1949790) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:29PM (#38970781)
    link [popsci.com]
  • Because with the latency, by the time they get around to actually cutting you open, you'll already be healed, and won't have to do the surgery at all!

  • Lets judge the article by the other statements in the article...

    That is, once we figure out things like whether tissue will repair and blood will clot in zero gravity.

    I'm old enough to have cut the top of my head, and the bottom of my feet, and I haven't bled out yet, in fact healed nicely. So, two datapoints +/- 1 G WRT the direction of the wound is ok. Then we've got quasi-horizontal surfaces, where the G force WRT the direction of the wound is zero, and that clots. So we're all good everywhere from +1 to -1 G just by geometry. Now I know for a fact direct pressure helps wounds clot or close, so I'd gi

    • by Baloroth (2370816)

      There doesn't seem to be much on it that I can find on google, except a Washington Post article from 11 years ago, but apparently even minor wounds heal slowly (or not at all) in space. As for the blood clotting... IDK, maybe they are thinking because the blood won't pool up on your skin but float free? Not a problem with minor cuts, but in surgery I imagine it could be a huge issue. Basically, if you cut a vein, the blood can flow forth freely, which it doesn't do on Earth since the pooling blood clots and

      • by vlm (69642)

        I don't think the static pressure of an inch of blood is relevant compared to blood pressure. If a "typical BP" is around 100 mmHg and atmospheric pressure is around 750 mm Hg then your blood pours out around 1/7th an atmosphere delta. Now a 1 atm water column is a whoppin 30 something feet. A seventh that is around 4 or so feet. So if your buried beneath 4 feet of blood, then the pressure of the blood will have a substantial effect on flow rate. This would seem to imply that the pressure of the blood

  • So, the idea is sending all of the doctor and dentist torture tools into space, along with a handy dandy user's manual disguised as a helmet. What about just having a crew member who is a surgeon too?

    • by vlm (69642) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:36PM (#38970867)

      Then you'd have to listen to endless "damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not an engineer". Maybe if she's kinda hot in a milf-y way, but what if she has a pesky son on board... I suppose its inevitable, eventually.

      • by Suki I (1546431)

        Then you'd have to listen to endless "damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not an engineer". Maybe if she's kinda hot in a milf-y way, but what if she has a pesky son on board... I suppose its inevitable, eventually.

        Oh no, was not thinking that at all. Was more along the lines of an engineer who is also a surgeon, or a geologist who is also a surgeon, etc.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by RazzleFrog (537054)

          I think it is pretty hard to be "also a surgeon". Might make more sense to have a surgeon who is also something else. I'd rather have a surgeon who dabbles in engineering or geology than an engineer who dabbles in surgery.

          • I think it is pretty hard to be "also a surgeon". Might make more sense to have a surgeon who is also something else. I'd rather have a surgeon who dabbles in engineering or geology than an engineer who dabbles in surgery.

            Actually, for simple things that you might do to healthy adults, it's not that far fetched. Think orthopedics, appendectomies and lacerations. They're pretty easy to teach. The problem with more complex stuff (like the hip fracture) is that you need lots of pieces parts. Special drills, special screws and plates, etc. For bad vascular accidents like a major blunt force trauma you'd need various bits of mesh, artificial blood vessels and such. Yeah, you can envision printing them out on some wizzo 3D

            • That really is my point. Somebody with all the knowledge but without the years of experience behind it is really useless. That's why it takes so long to become a surgeon in the first place.

          • by vlm (69642)

            Biologist botanist sociologist.. all would probably fit pretty well.

            There must be someone out there who graduated with a BSEE or BS in geology and later went on to medical school to become a surgeon.

            • by Suki I (1546431)

              Biologist botanist sociologist.. all would probably fit pretty well.

              There must be someone out there who graduated with a BSEE or BS in geology and later went on to medical school to become a surgeon.

              Yep, now there is my point. Besides, every surgeon majored in something undergrad, many majored in something else besides pre-med.

        • by Karlb (87776) <ksb@aYEATSmber.org.uk minus poet> on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:53PM (#38971105)

          Then you'd have to listen to endless "damnit Jim, I'm a doctor not an engineer". Maybe if she's kinda hot in a milf-y way, but what if she has a pesky son on board... I suppose its inevitable, eventually.

          Oh no, was not thinking that at all. Was more along the lines of an engineer who is also a surgeon, or a geologist who is also a surgeon, etc.

          Wormhole specialist who is also a Gynecologist ?

      • by Hentes (2461350)

        Astronauts have a great variety of skills. A doctor could also conduct biological or chemical experiments. And it's not like she wouldn't do anything when someone isn't ill, having a skilled person to constantly monitor the health of the crew would lead to a better understanding of the effects of space on the human body, and would also help to detect problems early before they become serious.

      • by SomePgmr (2021234)
        At that point all they have to do is wave an all-knowing tricorder over the wounded and occasionally inject you with the appropriate magic hypospray, so qualifications don't much seem to matter.
  • wow, a whole new meaning to "just in time training"

  • >> I thought you packed the helmet!
    > Oh, damn, it's not here.

  • But writing software that can diagnose the cause of an illness and guide an untrained person through a surgery won't happen anytime soon. The best this tool can do is storing some general medical knowledge and "projecting" it to the patients body. Just put a doctor on board.

  • "what if you fall and break your hip on the Moon?" What with all that gravity up there and all.
  • How about a patient helmet that does vitals/anesthesia?

  • by NoKaOi (1415755) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:50PM (#38971061)
    TFA mentions wider applications, such as first responders, antarctica, 3rd world countries, and other remote locations. It seems like that would be a much larger user base than space. Why is the focus so much on space applications? It seems like something that would be so useful on Earth, that could also happen to be used in space, not the other way around.
    • by Bardwick (696376)
      I've had several health care customers that have spent millions on real time HD video patient diagnosis and treatment systems. Doctors just flat out will not use it. They are too uncertain about the legal liabilities, billing, regulation and so forth. Not sure how this would scale for first responders, 3rd world countries and remote locations (baby uses a lot of juice). Although maybe that will shake out as a result of the research.
    • by mbone (558574)

      Space tends to be tougher, and space agencies tend to have money to develop such things. Also, if can get it to work there, then the ground applications are probably fairly straight-forward.

    • Why is the focus so much on space applications?

      This project was originally an academic project from what I understand [Scholar [google.com]]. In order to get something like this published you need to demonstrate it's feasibility and it's usefulness in some scenario. That's why they came up with the space scenario. In space the helmet would not impede the wearer so much (weight is the number one issue that hinders all HMD's). On earth you'd have this huge bulky thing strapped to your head, wires pulling you down, making it rather ineffective.

  • It mentions falling and breaking your hip. Then as a solution this helmet that will help you perform minor surgery. Hip repair/replacement is pretty major surgery.
    • by Grishnakh (216268)

      Unless you're really old (in which case you wouldn't be going to the Moon any time soon), breaking your hip does not mean hip replacement surgery. That's for people who have major arthritis problems and the femur/pelvis joints don't work right any more.

      I broke my hip when I was in college (actually, the sacrum, which connects the pelvis to the spine). It was a small fracture, so I just had to keep weight off of it for 6 weeks with a crutch.

  • Regarding the Mars comments:

    Even if you get a doctor on mars- or the medical know-how you won't necessarily have the medical supplies of a hospital on earth. If you get bit by a venomous snake- you can almost guarantee they won't have the right anti-venom handy. Snakes on a space-plane would be a disaster.

    Seriously though. We need to accept the risks- the first manned mission to mars will be a lonely one-way slow-suicide mission. The first men on mars will be the first men to die on mars.

    We need to firs

  • I can't get to the article because of a content filter. The summary implies that this is some kind of augmented reality thing that can recognize a human and pop up some text and arrows saying, "make incision here." etc. That certainly sounds cool, but If we are capable of producing software that can diagnose an injury and monitor the surgery, why even send people? Can't we just make software capable of driving a buggy around on the moon and picking up some dirt to send back to us?
  • by tpjunkie (911544) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @03:58PM (#38971181) Journal
    I have to ask, why not just send a physician along to any long term deep space mission? There are 5 aerospace medicine residency programs in the country, not to mention the fact that anyone applying for the astronaut positions at NASA gets credited with "work experience" for having completed an MD degree. I believe there are even a few currently active astronauts who are physicians. There isn't much substitute for someone who actually knows what they're doing, and as a (near legendary) trauma surgeon/professor at my medical school is fond of repeating, you can pack a "black bag" with about 10 pounds of equipment that will have you ready for just about anything in the woods, from a emergency tracheostomy to an open appendectomy.
    • by mbone (558574)

      I think this depends a lot on the staffing. If you have a 3 person crew, you are unlikely to staff a physician. If you have a dozen or more, I think you should.

      Even if you do send a Doctor, physicians do get sick and have accidents, and there is the famous case where the South Pole's Stations Doctor had to operate on herself [wikipedia.org]. And, of course, if your physician dies, you will need a plan B.

    • by g0bshiTe (596213)
      10 pounds, really? I can do that with a ball point pen, suchers or liquid glue, and a sharp knife. Granted it wouldn't be the ideal toolkit but in a pinch it beats the alternative.

      Seriously though you are spot on. Every member of the crew should have at least adequate training as a field medic.

      And would you really want to operate on someone in zero gravity? Even on Mars inside the station/ship whatever how sterile could it be? Not to mention this assumes they will be sending painkillers a bit stronger tha
      • by tpjunkie (911544)
        Well, that'll handle the trach, but if you can do an open appy with a pen and a knife, I'd be seriously impressed. Anyway, the "black bag" includes drape, sterile gloves, scalpel (he later explained how to get those onto planes), basic surgical tools, 3 different IV antibiotics, strong narcotic analgesics (he was less forthcoming about these), and a variety of other things, for various contingencies. There are a number of issues with operating in free-fall, dealing mostly with positioning, and being unable
    • why not just send a physician along to any long term deep space mission?

      Because everyone knows it is the nurses that do all the work- and a nursey outfit would be impractical in space.

    • by izomiac (815208)
      I think that's the only viable solution really. There is a reason that a general surgeon receives 9 years of education after college involving one of the most intense residencies. Anatomy is highly variable and computers have not been able to approach an acceptable level of judgement (e.g. 12 lead EKGs are read by the machine first, and are right maybe half the time if it's abnormal).

      With surgery, bleeding the the most common complication, and it's easy for the surgical field to become filled with bloo
  • Unless you are planning to live in Deep Space. Then, by all means, proceed.

  • but what if you fall and break your hip on the Moon

    Really?

  • The reptiloids have avoided this problem altogether because whenever they're injured they just change their form into something that isn't injured.
  • by stabiesoft (733417) on Wednesday February 08, 2012 @04:26PM (#38971581) Homepage

    Sounds like an episode of star trek where the alien woman was not smart, but when she put on the magical helmet, the machine gave her fantastic amounts of knowledge into her brain for a short period of time. Of course, it almost killed bones when he tried to put spocks brain back in his body. The bloody alien tech is just never compatible with us humans.

    • So simple a child could do it Jim (http://www.startrek.de/_files/images/guide/episode_438.jpg). All you need a plexiglass helmut and some lights.
    • Spock's Brain. Unforgettable line: "Brain and brain, what is brain?" (Stomp foot for effect)
      • Exactly, that line is still perfectly framed in my brain from the tall long dark haired woman in the mini-skirt. And she went from totally dumb to very savvy after they forced the helmut on her to make her do the surgery.

  • Considering that most astronauts are healthier than average, and considering that gravity is much lower (1/6 on the moon, IIRC 1/3 on Mars) than Earth, I doubt there will be many hip fractures.

    • True... although living in low G causes bones to get weaker. I don't know therefore if our healthy astronaughts after months in space will have weaker hip-bones by the time they reach Mars. (to the moon is negligable).

  • It sounds like this would be potentially life saving in a lot of places where doctors are not immediately available. Of course, having the necessary supplies for surgery are not always on hand, but having them at hand is cheaper and easier than lugging around a surgeon.

     

  • If this thing ever works as intended, I imagine the next step would be to produce a commercial version. At first it would only be for specialized uses, but the big breakthrough would be when the first general purpose model appears. Connected to the Internet, it would be great to help people with no prior knowledge to e.g. repair a car, or simply cook a tasty meal for themselves with a limited collection of ingredients.

    On the other hand, I feel less scrupulous entities would be sorely tempted to use thes

  • Any time you see "minor surgery" you know you're dealing with someone with no understanding of actual surgery. Surgery can be routine, but it's never minor.

  • Is minor surgery?

  • I am the Emergency Medical Hologram. What is the nature of the medical emergency?

  • If you manage to fall and break ANYTHING in 1/6 gravity - let alone a hip! - you're long overdue for some natural selection.

  • Send the helmet, not the patient.

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