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renal stone risk during space flightSpace flight produces a number of metabolic and physiological changes in the crewmembers exposed to microgravity. Following launch, body fluid volumes, electrolyte levels, and bone and muscle undergo changes as the human body adapts to the weightless environment. Changes in the urinary chemical composition may lead to the potentially serious consequences of renal stone formation. Previous data collected immediately after space flight indicate changes in the urine chemistry favoring an increased risk of calcium oxalate and uric acid stone formation (n = 323). During short term Shuttle space flights, the changes observed include increased urinary calcium and decreased urine volume, pH and citrate resulting in a greater risk for calcium oxalate and brushite stone formation (n = 6). Results from long duration Shuttle/Mir missions (n = 9) followed a similar trend and demonstrated decreased fluid intake and urine volume and increased urinary calcium resulting in a urinary environment saturated with the calcium stone-forming salts. The increased risk occurs rapidly upon exposure to microgravity, continues throughout the space flight and following landing. Dietary factors, especially fluid intake, or pharmacologic intervention can significantly influence the urinary chemical composition. Increasing fluid intake to produce a daily urine output of 2 liters/day may allow the excess salts in the urine to remain in solution, crystals formation will not occur and a renal stone will not develop. Results from long duration crewmembers (n = 2) who had urine volumes greater than 2.5 L/day minimized their risk of renal stone formation. Also, comparisons of stone-forming risk in short duration crewmembers clearly identified greater risk in those who produced less than 2 liters of urine/day. However, hydration and increased urine output does not correct the underlying calcium excretion due to bone loss and only treats the symptoms and not the cause of the increased urinary salts. Dietary modification and promising pharmacologic treatments may also be used to reduce the potential risk for renal stone formation. Potassium citrate is being used clinically to increase the urinary inhibitor levels to minimize the development of crystals and the growth of renal stones. Bisphosphonates are a class of drugs recently shown to help in patients with osteoporosis by inhibiting the loss of bones in elderly patients. This drug could potentially prevent the bone loss observed in astronauts and thereby minimize the increase in urinary calcium and reduce the risk for renal stone development. Results of NASA's renal stone risk assessment program clearly indicate that exposure to microgravity changes the urinary chemical environment such that there is an increased risk for supersaturation of stone-forming salts, including calcium oxalaie and brushite. These studies have indicated specific avenues for development of countermeasures for the increased renal stone risk observed during and following space flight. Increased hydration and implementation of pharmacologic countermeasures should largely mitigate the in-flight risk of renal stones.
Document ID
Document Type
Conference Paper
Whitson, Peggy A.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX United States)
Pietrzyk, Robert A.
(Wyle Life Sciences United States)
Sams, Clarence F.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX United States)
Pak, Charles Y. C.
(Texas Univ. Health Science Center TX United States)
Jones, Jeffrey A.
(NASA Johnson Space Center Houston, TX United States)
Date Acquired
August 19, 2013
Publication Date
January 1, 1999
Publication Information
Publication: Proceedings of the First Biennial Space Biomedical Investigators' Workshop
Subject Category
Aerospace Medicine
Distribution Limits
Work of the US Gov. Public Use Permitted.

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IDRelationTitle20000020485Analytic PrimaryProceedings of the First Biennial Space Biomedical Investigators' Workshop
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