An unidentified astronaut aboard the International Space Station had a deep vein thrombosis (DVT) — or blood clot — in the jugular vein of their neck, according to a new case study.
The astronaut’s identity and exactly when the incident took place are being kept secret for privacy reasons, so identifying information was omitted from the case study. The astronaut was two months into a six-month stay at the International Space Station (ISS) when the DVT was discovered.
This was the first time a blood clot was discovered in an astronaut in space, and NASA had no established method for treating the condition in a “zero gravity” environment.
[Watch Space.com video here]
Blood clot expert
One of the experts brought in by NASA to treat the situation was blood clot expert Stephan Moll, M.D., professor of medicine at the University of North Carolina (UNC) School of Medicine at Chapel Hill. Moll was the only non-NASA physician NASA consulted to help come up with a treatment plan for the clot, UNC officials said in a statement.
“Moll and a team of NASA doctors decided blood thinners would be the best course of treatment for the astronaut. They were limited in their pharmaceutical options, however,” because the ISS has only a small supply of medications on board, UNC officials said in the statement.
When the clot was discovered, there was a limited amount of the blood thinner Enoxaparin available. Moll helped NASA determine how to ration the space station’s stock of Enoxaparin in order to effectively treat the DVT while also making sure that the astronaut would not run out of the drug before NASA could launch a new shipment of drugs on the next cargo mission.