When I Grow Up I Want to be… A Study for Blood Clots?

By Morgan Tidmore


Recent studies of Astronauts and the effect that space really puts and holds on their bodies in and out of orbit is shocking. A study has turned up a side effect of human spaceflight that no one had observed before, “an astronaut was carrying out an ultrasound on their own body as part of a new study, guided in real time by a specialist on the ground. A similar test before the astronaut launched into space had come back normal. But now the scan showed a clump of blood.” On the ground, researchers measure vitals, draw blood, swab cheeks, and more. In orbit around the Earth, the astronauts do the work themselves. Soon after, NASA doctors took over. The astronaut wasn’t showing any symptoms stemming from the clot, but was still pulled out of the study and treated with blood-thinning drugs for the rest of their time in orbit. The researchers had discovered a new risk in human spaceflight. There were more complications post-orbit with many other astronauts that haven’t been widely talked about such as, “astronauts who spent months on the International Space Station came home with swollen optic nerves, slightly flattened eyeballs, and changes in vision. NASA started putting glasses on board the station for astronauts who found that their eyesight had worsened.”. Studies have also shown some astronauts experiencing reversal in blood flow patterns. Reverse flow in the jugular vein could be completely harmless as the blood is simply leaving the head through one of the other venous pathways. However, reverse flow implies altered venous pressure dynamics, which could impact the ability of the brain to drain cerebrospinal fluid and possibly increase pressure in the brain. This is something that is continuing to be investigated. In one study measurements and ultrasound scans of the blood vessels in nine men and two women were conducted on the ground before and after their missions on the International Space Station. The astronauts took measurements 50 and 150 days into their flights. In two of the astronauts their blood flow was found to be flowing backwards. As touched on previously, in some of the other astronauts in the study their blood was found to be more or less stagnant, scans also revealed clotting in some of the vessels which was said to be “alarming” and the person(s) began taking blood thinners immediately. The only comment from NASA was that the cardiovascular system gets “lazy” in space and that there will be “continual studies” on these alarming health discoveries in and out of orbit.