A researcher at the Baton Rouge branch of the LSU Health Science Center was the lead author of a paper describing a blood clot risk in astronauts.
Dr. Serena Aunon-Chancellor, a clinical associate professor of medicine, and others researched stagnant blood flow that resulted in a clot in the jugular vein of an astronaut, according to a statement from the university.
“These new findings demonstrate that the human body still surprises us in space,” she said in the statement. “We still haven’t learned everything about aerospace medicine or space physiology.”
Eleven astronauts were involved in the study, which looked at the structure and function of the internal jugular vein in long-duration spaceflights. About two months into a mission, one astronaut had developed a blood clot.
The International Space Station had doses of an injectible blood-thinner aboard, but no anticoagulation-reversal drugs, the researchers said. A supply spacecraft ultimately brought up oral anti-coagulants, and reversal drugs.
The clot shrank and, by the time the astronaut returned to earth, the remainder of it had flattened to the vessel walls. It disappeared within 10 days after landing and six months later the astronaut remained symptom-free.
The researchers’ paper was in this week’s edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, which noted, “This case of venous thromboembolism in spaceflight highlights unique complexities of space medicine.”
Aunon-Chancellor, a member of NASA’s astronaut corps and board-certified in internal and aerospace medicine, said the condition is often the result of cancer and has been seen after intravenous drug use involving the jugular vein.
“The biggest question that remains is how would we deal with this on an exploration class mission to Mars? How would we prepare ourselves medically?