vomit comet, now with knives!

First human surgery in microgravity set to be performed

Harnessed to the walls, their surgical tools moored down with magnets, a team of French doctors are to attempt the world's first human operation in zero-gravity on Wednesday. It will serve as a test for performing surgery in space.

Working inside a custom-made operating block, three surgeons, backed by two anaesthetists and a team of army parachutists, will remove a fatty tumour from the forearm of an intrepid volunteer over the course of a three-hour flight.

Miniature surgical tools, held in place with magnets placed around the patient's stretcher, will be used to adapt to the reduced size of the operating theatre, which was designed by a French elevator manufacturer.

The European space plane, a specially-adapted Airbus A300 operated out of Bordeaux, flies in a series of roller-coaster like parabolas, creating between 20 and 22 seconds of weightlessness at the top of the curve, a process repeated around 30 times for a 3-hour flight.

As well as the challenge of working in zero gravity, the surgical team will have to halt their work each time the plane pulls out and gravity resumes.

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5 Responses:

  1. strspn says:

    Like simulating skydiving on a roller coaster. Pull the grant and fire the people who awarded it.

    • usufructer says:

      Parabolic flights are a well established method for doing microgravity experiments and training; NASA has their own, as well as a commercial company in the US, ZeroG.

      Trying to cut on someone during one of those flights is a bit of a stretch, but there isn't any other way to try it within two orders of magnitude in cost.

      • 33mhz says:

        But I'm a righteously angry layman! That my objections are founded on ignorance does not diminish the certainty of my folksy wisdom!

  2. jkonrath says:

    Skylab crew members were trained to do in-flight zero-G dental work. You'd think eating green mush out of a bag wouldn't stress out your teeth, but NASA thought otherwise. Here's too much detail:


    There's a story that a high-ranking general flew to the base where the crew were training for this and insisted that one of them put in a filling, so he could have dental work done by an astronaut.

  3. gfish says:

    Doing surgey in freefall doesn't seem that bad, but on a vomit comet? The 1.7g pullouts are brutal. Interesting idea, just fundamentally insane.