Affordable voice box prosthesis for throat cancer patients

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Here is some good news for patients suffering from throat cancer but can’t afford to spend around Rs 30,000 on prosthesis. Patients who lose their voice can look forward to speaking again, without having to spend much money for an artificial voice box, thanks to Dr Vishal Rao, Head and Neck Surgeon, HCG.
Dr Rao has come up with voice box prosthesis, an artificial device made of silicon that can help laryngectomized patient to speak again.
One of the major disadvantages for throat cancer patients has been the removal of the voice box when they undergo Laryngectomy wherein they have their larynx removed surgically. Imported prosthesis currently available in the market costs about Rs 30,000 and needs to be changed once in six months, which is not viable for many patients, especially for those who belong to below poverty line.
Dr Rao has used the device on some of the patients so far, one among the successful cases being a 55-year-old Ramakrishna. Ramakrishna is a watchman from Peenya Industrial Area who needed a change in the imported prosthesis and could not afford it. He was provided with the Indian prosthesis and now has got his voice back.
Two years ago, Dr Vishal Rao treated him and arranged for prosthesis through donations. Though the shelf life of the device is only six months, Ramakrishna used it for two years as he could not afford a replacement.
“Being a watchman, I was addicted to smoking ‘beedi’ to keep myself awake at night. When I was suffering from throat cancer, my voice box was removed and imported voice prosthesis was given which I used for two years. But I had trouble eating as food used to leak through the device. Post using the new device by Dr Rao, I am doing much better and my problems are solved,” Ramakrishna said.
Commenting on his innovation, Dr Vishal Rao said that if air passes through the food pipe in the lungs, it would vibrate and create noise which can be converted into intelligent speech with the coordination from brain.
“Food or water should not fall into the lungs, as it is a one-way valve device. It weighs about 25 grams and is 2.5 cm long and is called ‘AUM’ device as that is the sound which first resonated across the universe, thus regaining one’s voice is much like a re-birth. The imported prosthesis currently available in the market costs about Rs 30,000 and needs to be changed once in six months, which is not viable for many patients. My objective was to design something that is affordable, hence we came up with this device which costs less than a dollar (Rs 50) and gave them their voice back,” Dr Rao said.

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