Diagnostic Ultrasound at Mach 20: Retroperitoneal and Pelvic Imaging in Space

J. A. Jones, A. E. Sargsyan, Y. R. Barr, S. Melton, D. R. Hamilton, S. A. Dulchavsky, P. A. Whitson

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Scopus citations


    An operationally available diagnostic imaging capability augments spaceflight medical support by facilitating the diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of medical or surgical conditions, by improving medical outcomes and, thereby, by lowering medical mission impacts and the probability of crew evacuation due to medical causes. Microgravity-related physiological changes occurring during spaceflight can affect the genitourinary system and potentially cause conditions such as urinary retention or nephrolithiasis for which ultrasonography (U/S) would be a useful diagnostic tool. This study describes the first genitourinary ultrasound examination conducted in space, and evaluates image quality, frame rate, resolution requirements, real-time remote guidance of nonphysician crew medical officers and evaluation of on-orbit tools that can augment image acquisition. A nonphysician crew medical officer (CMO) astronaut, with minimal training in U/S, performed a self-examination of the genitourinary system onboard the International Space Station, using a Philips/ATL Model HDI-5000 ultrasound imaging unit located in the International Space Station Human Research Facility. The CMO was remotely guided by voice commands from experienced, earth-based sonographers stationed in Mission Control Center in Houston. The crewmember, with guidance, was able to acquire all of the target images. Real-time and still U/S images received at Mission Control Center in Houston were of sufficient quality for the images to be diagnostic for multiple potential genitourinary applications. Microgravity-based ultrasound imaging can provide diagnostic quality images of the retroperitoneum and pelvis, offering improved diagnosis and treatment for onboard medical contingencies. Successful completion of complex sonographic examinations can be obtained even with minimally trained nonphysician ultrasound operators, with the assistance of ground-based real-time guidance. (E-mail: jeffrey.a.jones@nasa.gov).

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1059-1067
    Number of pages9
    JournalUltrasound in Medicine and Biology
    Issue number7
    StatePublished - Jul 2009


    • Astronaut
    • International space station
    • Microgravity
    • Retroperitoneal imaging
    • Spaceflight
    • Ultrasound

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Radiological and Ultrasound Technology
    • Biophysics
    • Acoustics and Ultrasonics


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