MRO Magazine

Top Canadian, US Trauma Surgeons Perform Simulated Emergency Surgery in Weightless Flight Environment June 26 Onboard Specially Equipped Falcon 20 Jet in First of Its Kind Proof-of-Concept Experiment

June 26, 2015
By Business Wire News

OTTAWA, Ontario

What happens if an astronaut on the International Space Station or on the way to Mars accidentally suffers blunt force trauma to the torso causing internal bleeding? There are no ambulances or time available to rescue the victim from certain death.

Some of the best trauma surgeons in Canada and the US will perform emergency surgery in a weightless environment on Friday, June 26, in a first of its kind proof-of-concept experiment. This is damage control surgery in the ultimate austere environment.

A specially equipped Falcon 20 jet from the Flight Research Laboratory (FRL) at the National Research Council (NRC), the Government of Canada’s premier research and technology organization, will take off from Ottawa/Macdonald–Cartier International Airport, with surgeons and technicians on board. Each flight will enter into 16 or more parabolic flight maneuvers, each of which produces 20 to 30 seconds of weightlessness. The flights are scheduled for 10:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Eastern time on Friday, June 26, and will depart from the National Research Council Laboratory, Building U-61, 1920 Research Road at the Ottawa Airport.

While weightless – or in microgravity – the surgeons will perform a laparotomy on a high fidelity simulated human torso (called a “Cut Suit”) complete with synthetic organs, skin and simulated pumping blood.

Because the operation to cut open the belly, assess the damage to the liver, spleen and other organs and then stop the bleeding takes longer than each weightless episode, the surgery is broken into multiple steps. A computer controlled pumping system senses when weightlessness stops during each parabola and stops the blood flow. The surgeon returns to the force of normal gravity, or 1G, and the scenario “freezes,” only to begin again during the next parabola.

The surgeons wear sensors monitoring their physiology, cameras inside the aircraft record images, and electronics record G forces, acceleration, flight data, blood loss, and time to complete the task of stopping the bleeding. Each step is assembled into a complete surgery and evaluated on the ground.

Bleeding to death is the most preventable cause of post-traumatic death worldwide. While many of these deaths can be prevented with relatively basic surgical interventions, they remain lethal in actuality when no facilities or skills exist to perform basic damage control surgery. This experiment in parabolic flight has implications for terrestrial applications from battlefield to rural to wilderness areas.

Funding for this project is provided by Trauma Services of the University of Calgary, Canadian Forces, NRC, the Royal Academy of Physicians and Surgeons, and Strategic Operations, Inc., developer of the Cut Suit.

Rocky Vista University College of Osteopathic Medicine, developer of an advanced surgical skills curriculum using the Cut Suit, assisted with the experiment.

Principal Investigator is Maj Andrew Kirkpatrick MD, and Co-Investigators are Anthony LaPorta MD, Susan Brien MD, Col Homer Tien MD, Deon Luow MD, and Jessica McKee MSc.

Also being evaluated is a self-expanding foam for pre-hospital rescue from exsanguination, being injected into the Cut Suit by David King MD from Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School.

Strategic Operations, Inc. is part of a TV/Movie studio in California and has provided Hyper-Realistic™ immersive simulations and training to more than 750,000 military and civilians over the last thirteen years using “Hollywood” movie making techniques and special effects. Strategic Operations is the parent company of STOPS Tactical Training Canada, with headquarters in Alberta. For more information, visit

Strategic Operations, Inc.
Mr. Kit Lavell, 619-843-9588 (mobile)
Executive Vice President
Merrill Marketing/Communications
Mr. Kim A. Merrill, 619-857-2782 (mobile)