Surgery in space. BJS 2018; 105: 1234-1243.

Published: 19th June 2018

Authors: S. S. Panesar, K. Ashkan


There has been renewed public interest in manned space exploration owing to novel initiatives by private and governmental bodies. Long‐term goals include manned missions to, and potential colonization of, nearby planets. Travel distances and mission length required for these would render Earth‐based treatment and telemedical solutions unfeasible. These issues present an anticipatory challenge to planners, and novel or adaptive medical technologies must therefore be devised to diagnose and treat the range of medical issues that future space travellers will encounter.


The aim was to conduct a search of the literature pertaining to human physiology, pathology, trauma and surgery in space.


Known physiological alterations include fluid redistribution, cardiovascular changes, bone and muscle atrophy, and effects of ionizing radiation. Potential pathological mechanisms identified include trauma, cancer and common surgical conditions, such as appendicitis.


Potential surgical treatment modalities must consist of self‐sufficient and adaptive technology, especially in the face of uncertain pathophysiological mechanisms and logistical concerns.

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