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Earth to Space: The Ultimate In Telemedicine

A unique occurrence that led to a world's first


What's going on?

The International Space Station (ISS) is an impressive structure that is slightly larger than a football field. Orbiting 408 kilometres above Earth, it is a monument to global cooperation and scientific exploration. However, that distance from Earth can also lead to problems if something goes wrong in the space station. For one particular astronaut who was based in the station, something did go wrong unfortunately as the astronaut discovered a blot clot in their neck.


This discovery required urgent management as it could lead to potentially serious complications. However, there were no suitable doctors at NASA, so an external expert had to be called in. A professor of medicine in the UNC School of Medicine, Stephan Moll, was consulted by NASA to treat the patient. Initially, NASA planned to send Moll up to ISS to examine the patient himself, but due to the limitation of time, he had to perform the diagnosis and treatment plan on Earth.


Taking into account the limited medicine supply onboard the ISS, Moll and the NASA team concluded blood thinners would be ideal for treating the astronaut – balancing the bleeding risks with the risks posed by the blood clot. Throughout the 90 days before the astronaut could return home to Earth, regular consultations were conducted with the Moll via emails and phone calls, creating a truly unique telemedicine occurrence. Fortunately for the astronaut, there was a happy ending at the end of the period after the astronaut’s safe landing on Earth. While the identity of the astronaut remains anonymous for privacy reasons, this unique occurrence leads to the need for further research on the potential issues for space travellers.


The Ultimate Telemedicine: UNC Expert Helps Treat Astronaut’s Blood Clot During NASA Mission