An inexpensive voice prosthesis designed by an Indian doctor is a ray of hope for patients who have lost their voices
Throat cancer is a very high risk disease where the only way to stop it is to remove the voice box from the throat of the patient as it is the first organ to get affected and damaged by the cancer. This also causes the patient to lose their ability to speak.
There are prostheses available in the market, and these are implanted surgically in order for the patients to regain their voices back. In order to receive this prosthesis, the patients have to shell out money for them every 6 months, as the shelf life of such voice prostheses is usually 6 months.
But an oncologist from Bengaluru, India has developed a new voice prosthesis which costs almost a fraction of the original cost and doesn’t have a shelf life.
1 The doctor
Doctor Vishal Rao has recently made waves in the Indian medical fraternity for his groundbreaking invention. Dr. Rao is one of the leading oncologists in the Indian city of Bengaluru (formerly Bangalore) and he has recently developed a device that can bring the voice back to the patients who lost their voice due to throat cancer.
The device has been named by Dr. Rao as Aum, the revered Hindu word that was the first to be resonated in the universe.
2 The device
The device is named Aum and the reason given by Dr.Rao is that speaking is a right, when a patient’s voice box is removed during the throat cancer surgery, their craving for speaking remains. The current prosthesis available in the market currently costs 20,000 INR and has to be changed every six months, which is not viable for a low income family.
The device is just 25gms in weight and costs just 50 INR. Dr. Rao also took help of his friend Shashank Mahesh, who dealt with the financial aspect of the project.
3 How it works?
The device is made up of platinum cured silicone, imported from Germany. The device has to be tested for any reactions to the body. Dr. Rao said that they had imported platinum cured silicone (two-component high tear strength and flexible mould or casting compounds) from Germany to design the prosthesis. He wanted to make sure that it didn’t react with body tissues.
The 2.5 cm device is then pierced through the neck and connected to the patient’s windpipe and it then replaces the voice box and gives the patient his/her voice back.
4 The first recipients of the device
55 year old Ramakrishna, who was a watchman, was the first recipient of this inexpensive voice prosthesis. According to him, he was a beedi (a rural cigarette made out of leaves and tobacco) addict. He used to smoke many throughout the night to stay awake. This habit of his developed into throat cancer and he had to have his voice box removed.
He got a western prosthesis and used it for 2 years, despite the device having a shelf life of 6 months. He turned to Dr. Rao for help, since the prosthesis was making food leak from his throat. He was offered the voice prosthesis designed by Dr. Rao. The watchman came back after sometime; having regained his voice back, to tell the doctor that he was doing fine.
The device has befitted 3 patients so far and has bagged an award for innovation from the state.