Space Obstructive Syndrome

Space Obstructive Syndrome has now been published in Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. The abstract is available HERE.and the free full text is available on that site at the link "download article."

This website is dedicated to the safety of space travel.

Head swelling and visual changes have been noted in microgravity. As duration in space increased, some individuals were noted to have increased intraocular pressure, elevated intracranial pressure, and long-term or permanent visual changes. The symptom and sign complex has been studied in a disconnected fashion, however this phenomenon is a cascade beginning with internal jugular vein obstruction and loss of the gravitationally-induced cranial blood outflow, and is discussed as a unified concept, Space Obstructive Syndrome, or SOS.

Internal jugular vein compression, along with loss of gravitationally induced cranial outflow of blood in the vertebral veins and collaterals, causes intracranial venous hypertension with resultant facial/head and upper airway swelling, increased intraocular pressure, choroidal folds, hyperopic shifts, globe flattening, intracranial hypertension, and papilledema or optic disc edema.

Space Obstructive Syndrome, now defined, will give researchers opportunity for study and development of mitigation strategies. The primary method of elimination of the potentially serious outcomes may involve artificial gravity for spacecraft and orbital platforms under development. With the acceleration of space tourism, this will become even more of a concern as less healthy and less evaluated individuals travel to space. The possibility of a major medical accident in spaceflight is real, and is a concern among those in the spaceflight community. Until now, the issue of what is now known as Space Obstructive Syndrome has been studied in a way that has not allowed the general spaceflight research community access to valuable publically-funded data, and this has slowed the discovery of this problem and mitigation strategies, i.e., artificial gravity system designs. Some of the advantages of artificial gravity systems include:

The author has had difficulty moving forward with NASA in researching this theory because of how the process works. JSC flight medicine was presented with the initial version of the theory on January 29, 2010.

My desire is to encourage unbiased scientific research on this serious issue, in order to promote growth of the manned space program, including NASA and international programs. I also want manned space programs to move forward in the safest way possible. Although arguments have been made that artificial gravity designs are too expensive, the cost to junk static, non-artificial gravity designs after a major accident, and redesign new systems for artificial gravity will be far more costly than putting the necessary designs in space in the first place.

Below is the presentation made to the annual meeting of the Aerospace Medicine Association in Anchorage, May 9, 2011. This theory has been submitted for publication in the aerospace medicine journal, Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine. All communication with the authors will be kept strictly confidential.

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Author: Thomas C. Wiener, MD