With the prospect of space travel for tourists looming, clinicians could soon be asked to advise on medical clearance for their patients, says a paper published in the BMJ Christmas edition and appearing online today.
Space travel opportunities are becoming increasingly available to the general public with bookings already in place.
A team of experts from North America therefore looked to provide advice to clinicians who require direction when advising patients on space travel.
The Aerospace Medical Association Commercial Spaceflight Working Group did publish a document in 2009 stating that most individuals with "well controlled medical conditions" could withstand the acceleration forces from a launch of a commercial spaceflight. But the researchers say it is important that patients recognise that space flight could carry risks for those with pre-existing medical conditions.
Loss of appetite, space motion sickness, fatigue, insomnia, dehydration and back pain are already very common in space travel. In addition, the proportion of space travellers who are not as healthy as the original astronauts is increasing, which makes adverse in-flight medical events more likely.
The researchers suggest that clinicians should "consider developing a resource file for future reference," and that the medical documentation arising from previous space travel should be readily available.
- S. M. Grenon, J. Saary, G. Gray, J. M. Vanderploeg, M. Hughes-Fulford. Can I take a space flight? Considerations for doctors. BMJ, 2012; 345 (dec13 8): e8124 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.e8124
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