NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor,
German astronaut Alexander Gerst of ESA (European Space Agency) and Russian
cosmonaut Sergey Prokopyev safely touched down on the snowy plain of Kazakhstan
on Dec. 20. The trio spent 197 days in space working as part of Expeditions 56
When Auñón-Chancellor and her crewmates
returned from the International Space Station, the physicians supporting them in
Kazakhstan—and then aboard the direct return aircraft—had an innovative new
tool at their disposal: the Butterfly iQ ultrasound. Ultrasound can be an important
diagnostic tool for physicians, but higher image quality has historically been
dependent on multiple probes and hardware too cumbersome for typical field
Owing to new cutting-edge technology, the
Butterfly iQ is small and portable, yet highly capable. It connects directly to
a smartphone, allowing physicians to immediately analyze images or transmit
them to specialists through secure cloud storage. And, unlike ultrasound
machines of past generations, this one has a single universal probe that works
well on all organs, tissues and blood vessels.
Thanks to a collaborative effort and the unique
expertise of NASA Human Health and Performance contractor KBRwyle and the Translational Research
Institute for Space Health (TRISH) at the Baylor College of Medicine, NASA Medical
Operations became one of the very first users of this novel capability.
In spring 2018, TRISH recognized the
potential in adopting this advanced technology for spaceflight, bringing
together the Butterfly Network, Inc., and KBRwyle. KBRwyle personnel then
worked closely with NASA to prepare for rapid integration of Butterfly
iQ into astronaut care.
International Space Station Crew Surgeon Dr.
James Pattarini and Auñón-Chancellor jointly conducted a technology
demonstration at the landing site in Kazakhstan, making NASA the earliest user of
this ultra-portable device in austere field conditions. Soon after, Dr. Ashot
Sargsyan with KBRwyle was able to evaluate the quality of images by accessing
The Butterfly iQ showed great promise in the
harsh environment, demonstrating that—within seconds—high-quality medical
imagery can be made available for physician evaluation. Applications for this nascent
technology could stretch beyond the spaceflight realm, helping to facilitate
medical decisions in any limited-resource setting.
Serena Auñón-Chancellor of NASA is helped out
of the Soyuz MS-09 spacecraft just minutes after she, Alexander Gerst of ESA
(European Space Agency) and Sergey Prokopyev of Roscosmos, landed in a remote
area near the town of Zhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, on Dec. 20. Image Credit:
NASA Johnson Space
International Space Station Crew Surgeon Dr. James Pattarini and NASA astronaut Serena Auñón-Chancellor test the Butterfly iQ ultrasound in the medical tent at the landing site in Kazakhstan. Image Credit: NASA