HOUSTON (Jan. 31, 2012) Just the mention of kidney stones can cause a person to cringe. They are often painful and sometimes difficult to remove, and 10 percent of the population will suffer from them. In space, the risk of developing kidney stones is exacerbated due to environmental conditions. The health risk is compounded by the fact that resource limitations and distance from Earth could restrict treatment options.
Scientists with the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) are developing an ultrasound technology that could overcome some medical care challenges associated with kidney stone treatment. The new technology detects stones with advanced ultrasound imaging based on a process called "Twinkling Artifact" and provides treatment by "pushing" the stone with focused ultrasound. This technology could not only be beneficial for health care in space, but could also alter the treatment of kidney stones on Earth.
The project is led by NSBRI Smart Medical Systems and Technology Team Principal Investigator Dr. Lawrence Crum and Co-Investigator Dr. Michael Bailey; both are researchers at the Applied Physics Laboratory at the University of Washington (APL-UW). Bailey said their technology is based on equipment currently available.
"We have a diagnostic ultrasound machine that has enhanced capability to image kidney stones in the body," said Bailey, a principal engineer at APL-UW. "We also have a capability that uses ultrasound waves coming right through the skin to push small stones or pieces of stones toward the exit of the kidney, so they will naturally pass, avoiding surgery."
Currently on Earth, the preferred removal method is for patients to drink water to encourage the stones to pass naturally, but this does not always work, and surgery is often the only option. In space, the threat from kidney stones is greater due to the difficulty of keeping astronauts fully hydrated. Another factor is that bon
|Contact: Brad Thomas|
National Space Biomedical Research Institute