18 Innovations: Echocardiography on the Space Station

Cleveland Clinic’s James Thomas, MD, helped find a way to detect heart disease in space.

International Space Station

There is no Cleveland Clinic in space. Yet. But today’s space travelers benefit from innovations led by Cleveland Clinic cardiologist James D. Thomas, MD. Back in 1997, Dr. Thomas received a grant from NASA to develop a digital echocardiology services for the International Space Station (ISS). He and his team developed the means to read echocardiograms from the space station, and today, ultrasound equipment is part of the medical monitoring gear on the ISS.

Advertising Policy

Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy

Inside the International Space Station

Inside the International Space Station

“Echocardiography stands out as the only thing that is going to work in space,” Dr. Thomas told theHeart.org in 1999, “It doesn’t have radiation, it doesn’t have a magnet. It’s relatively low power and it’s light-weight.”

Today, he is studying the effects of prolonged weightlessness on the astronauts’ hearts. “About once a month we can monitor echocardiograms being performed up in space as they are broadcast live via the secure NASA science network,” says Dr. Thomas. “This is going to teach us a great deal about what happens to the heart in space, and may explain why the astronauts have problems with low blood pressure when they come back to earth or difficulties exerting themselves. This is critical information that we need so that we can develop countermeasures that can keep astronauts healthy as we extend our reach ever farther from earth, perhaps even to Mars in the next few decades.”

Advertising Policy

In addition to being a staff cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Thomas is also Lead Scientist for Ultrasound at NASA.

Advertising Policy
Advertising Policy