Background: Performing a surgical procedure in weightlessness has been shown not to be any more difficult than in a 1g environment if the requirements for the restraint of the patient, operator, and surgical hardware are observed. The feasibility of performing a laparoscopic surgical procedure in weightlessness, however, has been questionable. Concerns have included the impaired visualization from the lack of gravitational retraction of the bowel and from floating debris such as blood.
Methods: In this project, laparoscopic surgery was performed on a porcine animal model in the weightlessness of parabolic flight.
Results: Visualization was unaffected due to the tethering of the bowel by the elastic mesentery and the strong tendency for debris and blood to adhere to the abdominal wall due to surface tension forces.
Conclusions: There are advantages to performing a laparoscopic instead of an open surgical procedure in a weightless environment. These will become important as the laparoscopic support hardware is miniaturized from its present form, as laparoscopic technology becomes more advanced, and as more surgically capable crew medical officers are present in future long-duration space-exploration missions.