CHENNAI: Throat-cancer patients who have lost their voices can now speak with the help of an inexpensive prosthetic device that costs a mere Rs 50. The device was developed by a team of doctors at the HCG Hospital Bangalore and will likely to be studied in three weeks time after which they will be made available in all regional cancer centres across the country. The prosthetic device has bagged the state innovation award at a recent conference for oncologists, and the scientific committee at HCG has given its approval for further research on the device.
The team, headed by Dr Vishal Rao, a head and neck surgeon at HCG Hospital developed the device after a daily wage labourer with throat cancer expressed his desire to speak but could not afford the Rs 30,000 prosthetic currently in the market that also needs to be replaced every six months.
“One of the major disadvantages for throat cancer patients is the removal of their voice box when they undergo Laryngectomy, they have their larynx removed surgically. Thereby losing their ability to speak,” said Dr Rao.
Dr Vishal said his low-cost prosthetic device, “weighs about 25 grams and is 2.5 cm long. We named it AUM, as that is the sound which first resonated across the universe, thus regaining one’s voice is much like a rebirth,” he said.
“I used to get donations from the rich to help buy prosthetics for the underprivileged, but that couldn’t be sustained. Finally I decided to design something that was affordable and does not cater to only a particular section of the society. Hence we came up with this device of less than a dollar to give patients their voice back.”
Rao explains the principle behind the device: “If air passes through the food pipe in the lungs, it will vibrate and create noise which can be converted into intelligent speech with the coordination of the brain. As food or water should not fall into the lungs, this is a one-way valve device,” he said.