Sonographic Astronaut Vertebral Examination (Spinal_Ultrasound)
Scientific Name: Homo sapiens Species: Human
This study provided longitudinal, real-time data regarding adaptation of the vertebral unit during long-duration space flight to enhance mission completion, countermeasure development, and astronaut health. The ability to assess the crewmember’s musculoskeletal (MSK) system is critical to guide countermeasures, provide functional data for high risk or impact activities, and assess acute injuries which may occur during exploration class space flight or return to Earth. This study had the following specific aims:
- Determine the accuracy of MSK ultrasound in characterizing the normal and microgravity associated changes in the vertebral unit.
- Investigate the human factors, level of experience, and training necessary to perform focused cervical and lumbar vertebral MSK ultrasound in microgravity with inexperienced ultrasound operators in parallel with expert operators.
- Determine the anatomic changes in the vertebral unit during long-duration space flight with astronaut performed vertebral ultrasound.
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Preflight baseline data collection (BDC) sessions consisted of a cervical and lumbosacral vertebral MRI along with a cervical and lumbosacral vertebral ultrasound. In fight, a comprehensive evaluation of the cervical and lumbosacral vertebral units to assess alterations in the intervetebral disc (IVD) spacing, ligaments, and other structural and functional relationships secondary to prolonged microgravity were performed at FD30 (±15), FD90 (±15), and FD150 (±15). Postflight BDC sessions consisted of a cervical and lumbosacral vertebral MRI, a back-pain questionnaire, and a cervical and lumbosacral vertebral ultrasound which was conducted within the R+4 (±3) timeframe.
Ultrasound correlated well with preflight and post flight MRI examinations. Investigators demonstrated that ultrasound has the potential to be an accurate tool to assess acute and chronic changes to the spine during flight. They showed changes in the curvature of long-duration crewmembers, and some changes to the intervertebral disks and bodies that may lead to a higher change of spinal injury.
Kufta JM, Dulchavsky SA. Medical care in outer space: A useful paradigm for underserved regions on the planet. Surgery.
2013. November ;154(5):943-5. [
Marshburn TH, Hadfield CA, Sargsyan AE, Garcia K, Ebert D, Dulchavsky SA. New heights in ultrasound: First report of spinal ultrasound from the International Space Station.
Journal of Emergency Medicine.
2014. January ;46(1):61-70 [
Cross-sectional area (CSA)
Archiving in Progress. Some restricted access data exist for this experiment.+ Request data
Bone mineral content (BMC)
Bone mineral density (BMD)
Cartilage metabolism biomarkers
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Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) pulsatility
Cross-sectional area of the lumbar muscle, erector spinae
Cross-sectional area of the lumbar muscle, multifidus
Cross-sectional area of the lumbar muscle, psoas
Echogenicity of tissue
Pfirrmann grade of the disc
Psoas muscle height
Psoas muscle length
Time to keep unsupported upper body level
Human Research Program (HRP) Human Research Roadmap (HRR) Information
Crew health and performance is critical to successful human exploration beyond low Earth orbit.
The Human Research Program (HRP) investigates and mitigates the highest risks to human health
and performance, providing essential countermeasures and technologies for human space exploration.
Risks include physiological and performance effects from hazards such as radiation, altered gravity,
and hostile environments, as well as unique challenges in medical support, human factors,
and behavioral health support. The HRP utilizes an Integrated Research Plan (IRP) to identify
the approach and research activities planned to address these risks, which are assigned to specific
Elements within the program. The Human Research Roadmap is the web-based tool for communicating the IRP content.
The Human Research Roadmap is located at: https://humanresearchroadmap.nasa.gov/
+ Click here
for information of how this experiment is contributing to the HRP's path for risk reduction.
Managing NASA Center
Johnson Space Center (JSC)
Responsible NASA Representative
Johnson Space Center LSDA Office
Project Manager: Jessica Keune
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
Alternate Experiment Name
2009 Crew Health NNJ09ZSA002N
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