ER on the Moon?

Back to robots for just a minute. I mentioned the pregnant robot earlier, the one used to help train medical students without the need for human guinea pigs. I also blogged about the challenge of meeting medical needs in space. Well, those topics have come together in a pretty interesting way. With help of a NASA robot, emergency surgery in space may have just gotten a lot easier. 

Using a cramped undersea laboratory off Florida’s Atlantic coast, NASA astronauts and medical experts have teamed with an experimental robot to demonstrate long-distance surgical procedures that might one day save the life of a critically injured explorer on the moon or Mars.

The mission to evaluate a new branch of health care called telemedicine and the use of robots in surgery will draw to a close today when the three-man, one-woman crew leaves the research facility 62 feet below the water’s surface where they have lived since early this month.

During their stay aboard the 43-foot-long Aquarius, submerged among the coral reefs off Key Largo, Fla., physician Tim Broderick and three astronauts — Dave Williams, Ron Garan and Nicole Stott — assisted as Canadian surgical researchers 1,250 miles away sent commands to a robot inside the laboratory.

Responding to those commands, the portable robot sutured a badly damaged vein in the wounded arm of a patient simulator, a lifelike medical teaching aide constructed of rubber and fabrics that mimic human tissue and contain bloodlike fluid.

"Patient simulator"? "Lifelike medical teaching aide"? Is it me or does that sound like a robot doing surgery on a robot? I guess it’s better that way, as long as they’re experimenting, but I supsect they won’t get any notes about cold hands or bedside manner from a "lifelike medical teaching aide."  

Via Mars Blog.