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Operation In Zero Gravity


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French Surgeons Perform First Human Operation At Zero-Gravity Conditions


September 27, 2006 11:45 a.m. EST



Shaveta Bansal - All Headline News Staff Writer

Merignac, France (AHN) - A team of French surgeons on Wednesday successfully performed the first zero-gravity operation on a human while on board a free-falling plane to create weightless conditions. The experimental surgery is part of a broader effort by the European Space Agency to develop robots for future space surgeries.


Dominique Martin, head of Bordeaux University hospital's plastic surgery unit, and other five members of his team successfully removed a fatty cyst from the forearm of volunteer patient, Philippe Sanchot.


The 10-minute operation was performed in 25 sequences, during which an Airbus 300 Zero G aircraft looped up and down, creating weightless conditions for 22 seconds each time during its free fall. The doctors strapped down to the walls of the plane operated during that 22 second-interval only.


The surgery went "exactly as we had expected," Martin told reporters near Merignac airport, outside Bordeaux. "All the data we collected allow us to think that operating on a human in the conditions of space would not present insurmountable problems."


Frederique Albertoni, a spokeswoman for the Bordeaux hospital where Martin works, said Sanchot was chosen for operation because he is an avid bungee-jumper, and accustomed to dramatic gravitational shifts.


Prior to the operation Sanchot and the medical team underwent training in zero-gravity machines, like those used by astronauts.


Martin said the cyst removal operation - what he called the "feasibility study" for possible space surgery - was chosen because it is relatively simple and involves a local anesthetic.


Martin and his team had earlier performed a microsurgery under zero-gravity conditions in 2003. That operation mended an artery in a rat's tail.


The operation, announced Monday by Martin and the French National Center for Space Studies, is aimed at developing earth-guided surgical space robots.

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