MANHASSET, NY -- Harold L. Rekate, MD, director of the Chiari Institute at North Shore University Hospital, has been appointed to the advisory board of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), serving as a medical expert for the Visual Impairment Intracranial Pressure (VIIP) program. Dr. Rekate was asked to join the advisory board as he is world-renowned for his research over the past 30 years relating to the causes and treatment of raised intracranial pressure (ICP).
The VIIP program was created to analyze the physiological and anatomical changes in astronauts who are participating in long-duration space missions, where intracranial pressure (ICP) may cause long-term visual impairment. A study sponsored by NASA found that space flights lasting six months or more can cause a spectrum of changes in astronauts’ visual systems including blurry vision and excess fluid around the optic nerve.
“We need to determine before astronauts embark on space missions, who is at risk of developing intracranial hypertension and then determine when they come back, who has suffered visual impairment as a result of ICP and decide how can we can best treat astronauts to prevent these problems,” says Dr. Rekate. “Intracranial hypertension can be measured with a spinal tap where a needle is inserted into the spinal canal in the lower part of the back to measure cerebrospinal fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The advisory board is looking into other kinds of treatment that are less invasive such as an ultrasound. The advisory board will first need to determine if the raised intracranial pressure is a result of an eye or brain problem.”
In coming months, the VIIP advisory board will meet to put protocols in place so that astronauts can be screened before they go on a space mission, determine what astronauts can do to relieve ICP while in space, and then upon their return measure ICP levels immediately and treat those whose levels are elevated.
Photo credit: NASA Johnson Space Center