City doctor invents a voice box for cancer survivors at an unbelievable price
As a head and neck surgeon with specialisation in oncology, Dr Vishal Rao would come across cancer survivors who have lost their voice chords due to surgery, almost every day. “Most patients of throat cancer who undergo surgery are unable to speak due to removal of voice box. The patients eat through their mouths, but cannot breathe through their nose. They instead breathe from a hole in the neck,” says Rao, who works with the HCG Cancer Care in the city.
Often pained by the fact that his patients had lost their voice and could never communicate again, Rao was prompted towards working on a voice box that is affordable. “Most of my patients are poor and can hardly earn a living, leave alone paying `30,000 for a standard voice box available in the market. Since I had the technical know-how on what needs to be done, my friend egged me on to create it and he backed me with the required materials,” he says.
Aum Voice Prosthesis, which Rao along with his friend Shashank Mahesh worked on for close to two years, helps throat cancer patients whose voice box is removed after surgery to speak again. The entire prosthesis is made of platinum cured silicon. “We have not used any other material. It is fitted in during surgery and we have devised a technique to do so using basic surgical instruments which are part of the routine surgery and nothing sophisticated is needed,” Rao explains.
The voice box has a one-way valve through which the air from lungs go into the food pipe and makes the food pipe vibrate. “But it prevents the food from entering the lungs,” he adds. The Aum Voice Prosthesis is priced at `50. Its patent has been registered and is presently awaiting some final quality approvals before its launch in market. However it has already won accolades and was the recipient of the ND Purushottam Innovation award in the Karnataka State conference on Otolaryngology- Head Neck Surgery last month.
— Nandini kumar