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Free Content Carotid and Femoral Artery Intima-Media Thickness During 6 Months of Spaceflight

INTRODUCTION: The objective was to determine the effects of 6 mo of microgravity exposure on conduit artery diameter and wall thickness.

METHODS: Diagnostic images of the common carotid artery (CC) and superficial femoral artery (FA) were obtained using echography which astronauts performed on themselves after receiving minimal training in the use of ultrasound imaging. Echographic video was recorded using a volume capture method directed by a trained sonographer on the ground through videoconferencing. Vessel properties were later assessed by processing the downlinked video. Data were collected from 10 astronauts who performed the echographic video capture at the beginning of the spaceflight (day 15) and near the end of the spaceflight (day 115 to 165). In-flight and postflight measurements were compared to preflight assessments.

RESULTS: No significant changes with spaceflight were found for CC and FA diameter. Intima-media thickness (IMT) of the CC was found to be significantly increased (12% ± 4) in all astronauts during the spaceflight (early and late flight) and remained elevated 4 d after returning to Earth. Similarly, FA IMT was increased during the flight but returned to preflight levels 4 d postflight.

CONCLUSION: The experiment demonstrated that, using the volume capture method of echography, untrained astronauts were able to capture enough echographic data to display vessel images of good quality for analysis. The increase in both CC and FA IMT during the flight suggest an adaptation to microgravity and to the confined environment of spaceflight which deserves further investigation.

Arbeille P, Provost R, Zuj K. Carotid and femoral artery intima-media thickness during 6 months of spaceflight. Aerosp Med Hum Perform. 2016; 87(5):449–453.

Keywords: carotid; echograph; femoral; intima-media; spaceflight

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: May 1, 2016

More about this publication?
  • This journal (formerly Aviation, Space, and Environmental Medicine), representing the members of the Aerospace Medical Association, is published monthly for those interested in aerospace medicine and human performance. It is devoted to serving and supporting all who explore, travel, work, or live in hazardous environments ranging from beneath the sea to the outermost reaches of space. The original scientific articles in this journal provide the latest available information on investigations into such areas as changes in ambient pressure, motion sickness, increased or decreased gravitational forces, thermal stresses, vision, fatigue, circadian rhythms, psychological stress, artificial environments, predictors of success, health maintenance, human factors engineering, clinical care, and others. This journal also publishes notes on scientific news and technical items of interest to the general reader, and provides teaching material and reviews for health care professionals.

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