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Astronaut with blood clot in space prescribed treatment via ultrasound

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | January 03, 2020
Cardiology Health IT Telemedicine Ultrasound

While effective in treating blood clots, blood thinners run the risk of contributing to internal bleeding in the event of an injury to the patient. It is because of this risk that Moll and his NASA counterparts stopped the patient’s course of Apixaban four days before they were due to return to earth. As the re-entry process is physically demanding and can be potentially dangerous, they did not want the blood thinners to exacerbate any injuries that may occur upon landing.

The astronaut’s return was completed safely, with the clot deemed no longer in need of treatment. Moll says the event stresses the need for more research on the behavior of blood and blood clots in outer space.

"In space (as well on Earth) we have limited knowledge why blood clots — deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or pulmonary embolism (PE) — occur in a given individual," he said. "What are the risk factors? How do you predict who will develop a clot? What are the mechanisms of blood clot formation? Are blood clots in space clinically relevant or just an irrelevant coincidental phenomenon? How do you (and do you need to) prevent blood clots, particularly on long flights, such as to the Moon or to Mars? How do you best treat blood clots if they occur? ... These are some of the questions that need to be (and are being) discussed, studied, and answered."

The events and findings of the diagnosis and treatment were recorded in a case study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

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