We are just over the moon with this story … telemedicine has hit outer space! An astronaut on a six-month mission developed deep vein thrombosis in his jugular vein. The astronaut, who remains anonymous, required immediate medical care without a physician on board the International Space Station (ISS). Despite the stress of being thousands of miles away from a doctor, technology would come to his rescue via telemedicine. NASA learned of the situation and immediately reached out to a member of the Blood Research Center at the University of North Carolina. Dr. Stephen Moll, MD, would have to help to develop a care management plan for the astronaut from right here on Earth.
On the face of it, this appeared quite a challenge. As this would be the first time in history that an astronaut had developed a blood clot in space, there was no protocol set for this serious situation. Dr. Moll was chosen for this mission because of his extensive knowledge in this particular condition, and he did not disappoint.
Without having the ability to examine the patient face to face, Dr. Moll had to develop a course of treatment for a patient orbiting 254 miles above the planet. He decided that blood thinners would be the best treatment.The astronaut was able to receive an injection that lasted for 45 days, and was then provided with oral medication to take for the remaining 90 days it would take to complete the return trip to Earth.
The patient was able to return safely and recovered fully but the first-ever case left Dr. Moll and the medical teams questioning what could have caused the previously undetected illness in space. Whatever the cause, telemedicine was there to assist.