Thursday, January 03, 2013

Station Spinal Ultrasounds Seeking Why Astronauts Grow Taller in Space

Spinal Ultrasound

Did you ever wish you could be just a teensy bit taller? Well, if you spend a few months in space, you could get your wish -- temporarily. It is a commonly known fact that astronauts living aboard the International Space Station grow up to 3 percent taller while living in microgravity. They return to their normal height when back on Earth. Studying the impact of this change on the spine and advancing medical imaging technologies are the goals of the Spinal Ultrasound investigation.

"This is the very first time that spinal ultrasound will be used to evaluate the changes in the spine," said Scott A. Dulchavsky, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator for the station study. "Spinal ultrasound is more challenging to perform than many of the previous ultrasound examinations done in space."

Part of the difficulty with imaging the spine is quite simply human anatomy. Using Ultrasound 2, the machine aboard station as a facility for human health studies, astronauts have an advanced tool to view the inner workings of their bodies.

"Today there is a new ultrasound device on the station that allows more precise musculoskeletal imaging required for assessment of the complex anatomy and the spine," Dulchavsky said. "The crew will be able to perform these complex evaluations in the next year due to a newly developed Just-In-Time training guide for spinal ultrasound, combined with refinements in crew training and remote guidance procedures."

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