Prophylactic surgery prior to extended-duration space flight: Is the benefit worth the risk?

Prophylactic surgery prior to extended-duration space flight: Is the benefit worth the risk?

Can J Surg 2012;55(2):125-131 | Full Text | PDF

Chad G. Ball, MD, MSC*, Andrew W. Kirkpatrick, MD*, David R. Williams, MD†, Jeffrey A. Jones, MD, MS‡§, J.D. Polk, DO MS CPE‡, James M. Vanderploeg, MD, MPH¶, Mark A. Talamini, MD**, Mark R. Campbell, MD††, Timothy J. Broderick, MD‡‡

From the *Department of Surgery, University of Calgary, Calgary, Alta., the †Departments of Surgery, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ont., the ‡NASA, Washington, DC, the §Baylor College of Medicine and United States Navy, Houston, Tex., ¶Virgin Galactic and the University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Tex., the **Department of Surgery, University of California-San Diego, Calif., the ††Paris Regional Medical Center, Paris, Tex., and the ‡‡United States Military – Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Arlington, Va.


This article explores the potential benefits and defined risks associated with prophylactic surgical procedures for astronauts before extended-duration space flight. This includes, but is not limited to, appendectomy and cholecystesctomy. Furthermore, discussion of treatment during space flight, potential impact of an acute illness on a defined mission and the ethical issues surrounding this concept are debated in detail.


Cet article explore les avantages possibles et les risques définis associés à des interventions chirurgicales prophylactiques (notamment appendicectomie et cholécystectomie) chez les astronautes devant effectuer des séjours prolongés dans l’espace. Le traitement pendant le séjour dans l’espace, les répercussions éventuelles d’une maladie grave au cours d’une mission particulière et les enjeux éthiques entourant la question y sont débattus en profondeur.

Accepted for publication Dec. 5, 2011

Competing interests: None declared.

Contributors:All authors helped design and review the article and approved its publication. C.G. Ball, A.W. Kirkpatrick, J.A. Jones, J.D. Polk, M.A. Talamini and T.J. Broderick acquired and analyzed the data. C.G. Ball, A.W. Kirkpatrick, D.R. Williams, J.A. Jones, J.M.Vanderploeg and T.J. Broderick wrote the article.

DOI: 10.1503/cjs.024610

Correspondence to: C.G. Ball, 132 Silvergrove Rd. NW, Calgary AB T3B 4K1;