Medical Advice before Taking a Spaceflight

The following is excerpted from a feature that appeared last December in the medical journal BMJ:

As access to space travel for personal or employment reasons increases, clinicians may be faced with new medical challenges and questions in their daily practice. For example: How long after a hip replacement can my patient safely embark on a ballistic two–hour flight to Australia? Can my patient with stable angina and a pacemaker for complete heart block participate in a suborbital Virgin Galactic flight? What is the maximum allowable time that my patient with osteoporosis can spend on a planned vacation at a space hotel? Of course, all physicians will not be expected to be experts in space medicine, just as they are currently not experts in the physiology of airplane flight, but they will have to understand how it affects their patients.

Medical Conditions Associated with Spaceflight and Potential Countermeasures

Motion sickness:

Conjunctival irritation (foreign body in the eye):
Removal of foreign body

Radiation exposure:
Keep as low as reasonably achievable

Hypothetical Spaceflight Considerations for Common Medical Entities

Gastrointestinal reflux:
May become exacerbated because of lack of gravity

Psychiatric problems:
May become exacerbated (or possibly improve)

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