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Standard Medical Equipment

Standard Starfleet medkits (also known as medikits) are pouches used by Starfleet medical practitioners and officers that contain medical equipment for away teams.

In the 2260s a medkit was carried separately from the medical tricorder as a supplement. It contained a hypospray preloaded with up to six drugs in suspension, such as cordrazine, Masiform-D, a neural paralyzer, sterilite, melanex, and tri-ox compound. Also included was a spray applicator, a medical scanner, and a palm-sized reader tube.

In the 2370s the kits were more complex, containing a medical tricorder, a hypospray, a dermal regenerator and trauma kit for emergency medical situations.¬†They are often kept in strategic positions around Starfleet vessels and bases. The USS Voyager had one located behind the tactical console on the bridge. (VOY: “Projections”)

Two Starfleet Medikits: standard and compact.A more compact medkit is also employed by Starfleet. About the same height as a standard medkit, but it is less wide. (VOY: “The Gift”)

The USS Enterprise-D kept extra medkits on hand for relief missions. To prove her loyalty to the Maquis, Ro Laren stole a large quantity of them in 2370. (TNG: “Preemptive Strike”)

A hypospray (colloquially, hypo) is a medical device used to inject liquids into the body. The system uses a noninvasive transport mechanism of compressed air to transfer the injectant from the device into the body without the use of a needle, ensuring that the skin is not punctured during use, thus reducing the risk of infection. Various drugs can be used, inserted into the hypo in vials attached to the end of the instrument.

The hypospray employs an angled head and rounded tip to transfer the drug more easily. Controls at the injection head set the dosage to be injected. (TOS: “Amok Time”; TNG: “Haven”)

The typical injection site used is the side of the neck, but the hypospray can inject even through clothing. Unlike hypodermic needles, the hypospray can be used on multiple patients without worries of spreading blood-borne illnesses. (TNG: “Angel One”)

There are a variety of real-life medical devices today that use the same method of non-invasive delivery of drugs into the body, ranging from the aerosol inhalers used to deliver steroids to sufferers of respiratory diseases such as asthma to the Biojector needle-free injection system.

The Biojector was first introduced in 1993 (the decde after Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced hyposprays) and was the first needle-free injector in history to deliver medications from a sterile single-use syringe. It Biojector forces liquid medication through a tiny orifice that is held against the skin. This creates a very fine, high-pressure stream of medication that penetrates the skin, depositing medication in the tissue beneath. The system has three components: a durable injection device, a disposable needle-free syringe, and a CO2 cartridge. The Biojector is energized by a small disposable CO2 cartridge which can deliver between 10 and 15 injections.

The first tricorders seen in 1966 in the original series were heavy, black, rectangular device with a small screen and a shoulder strap. The updated units seen in the Next Generation series of the 1980s looked more like PDAs and had a small, gray, square model with a flip-out panel to allow for a larger screen.

A real-world device comparable to the tricorder was developed by a Canadian company called the Vital Technologies Corporation in 1996. The scanner was called the TR-107 Mark 1; Vital Tech. sold 10,000 of them before going out of business. The TR-107 could scan EM radiation, temperature, and barometric pressure.

It can be argued that the hand-held tricorder could have also been the inspiration for the PDA. The term “personal digital assistant” was a coined on January 7, 1992 by then Apple Computer CEO John Sculley at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, referring to the Apple Newton. In 1989, the Atari Portfolio, although technically classed a palmtop, was an early harbinger imitating the form of some of today’s modern pocket devices

Software exists to make hand-held devices simulate a tricorder. Examples include Jeff Jetton’s Tricorder – 2.0 for the PalmPilot and the “genuine Tricorder from Elegant Solutions” for the Pocket PC.

However, the real-world device that comes closest to the functions of the tricorder is NUGGET (Neutron/Gamma Ray Geologic Tomography), an instrument containing a neutron generator, a neutron lens and a gamma-ray detector, could be used to investigate important biological indicators of life on distant worlds – just like Star Trek’s tricorder.

The system provides a three-dimensional scanning instrument that focuses a beam of neutrons into an object. When the nucleus of an atom inside the rock captures the neutrons, it produces a gamma-ray signal for that element, which the gamma-ray detector then analyzes. The location of the elements can also be plotted; information can then be turned into an image of the elements within the rock. Scientists could then tell whether a certain type of bacteria had become fossilized inside the rock.

The device was conceived by scientists at the Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC), who proposed the instrument be carried on a Mars rover or a robot lander.

As plot devices go, the tricorder, whether in the hands of Spock, Tom Paris or even bumbling Reg Barclay, is a stroke of genius. With one of these trusty devices in hand, a crewmember can gain (and pass on to the viewer) valuable information about his environment without being an expert in planetary sciences, geology, meteorology, chemistry or electromagnetics.

No need for a laboratory. It can detect life forms from a distance of several kilometres, analyze the composition of rocks and call up entire libraries of information. It even can detect subtle subspace distortions. And it looks pretty, too. Functional, even underwater!

The Star Trek: The Next Generation Technical Manual makes it sound like the tricorder is a masterpiece of miniaturization. Its users in the 24th Century can count its 235 mechanical, electromagnetic and subspace devices. Its faceplate display is completely dynamic, taking specialized appearances depending upon which device is in use at that moment it can even be customized to suit the preferences of its user.

The tricorder can be augmented with further highly specialized peripherals. For instance, placing the medical peripheral on the end of a standard tricorder gives it another 86 devices for testing biological function.

Certainly, aside from its size, the tricorder isn’t that far removed from today’s top scanning technologies.

Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging allows doctors to see detailed, 3D images of hard-to-get-to places in a patient’s body during complex operations. Ground-penetrating RADAR is used to detect valuable mineral deposits, unmarked gravesites and unexploded mines. And Doppler RADAR can spot potentially deadly tornadoes even before they form. The Flashlight RADAR can pick up a heartbeat even behind a closed door.

But some startling hand-held devices are already beginning to show up, as well. And one of those that would attract the attention of Dr. Crusher is a device invented by scientists at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Gene Greneker, a principal research scientist at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, says the roots of the tool go back to the mid-1980s. That’s when the U.S. Army asked researchers there to come up with a highly portable tool that would help their soldiers detect the life signs of wounded soldiers at a distance. The goal was to help soldiers find out whether fallen comrades were alive or dead before any dangerous attempts were made to pull them off the battlefield.

Their RADAR flashlight can detect a heartbeat from a distance of 3 metres, even when solid wooden doors or concrete block walls 20 centimetres thick are in the way. The device emits a very weak RADAR beam. As the beam meets obstacles, such as a wall or a plant or a living person, tiny amounts the signal are reflected, like a sound-wave echo, which are then measured by a receiver in the flashlight. By carefully analyzing the returning signal for tiny changes, the RADAR flashlight can detect the minute motion of the chest wall as it flexes with each heart beat.

Security officers would love this device. It could tell a prison guard if an inmate was hiding behind a door. Police could use it to detect an ambush before they enter a room or even detect the number of people inside a room during a hostage-taking. And while it’s great for spotting people who don’t want to be found, it’s also good for helping people people who do. Greneker says the device may ultimately be used to detect unconscious earthquake victims who are buried beneath tonnes of rubble.

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