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Doctor’s Low-Cost Innovation Gives Voice to Underprivileged Cancer Patients

By auther pic. Roshini Muthukumar

May 19, 2022

Doctor’s Low-Cost Innovation Gives Voice to Underprivileged Cancer Patients

Dr. Vishal Rao

Those suffering from throat cancer undergo immense physical and mental stress. They are unable to speak or swallow and eat with the help of a pipe attached at the nose. Some patients come from poor financial conditions which makes it even more difficult to afford medical treatment. 

To provide access to high-quality healthcare at nominal prices, Dr Vishal Rao, a Bengaluru-based Oncologist with over 15 years of experience, stepped up. He has innovated a low-cost device that helps several cancer patients across the country. 

So what is this innovation? 

Named AUM Voice Prosthesis, Dr Vishal created a small box that works as a voice prosthesis. This device can help patients whose voice box has been removed, to speak and eat properly. 

“Usually, these devices that help people who have lost their voices are imported from foreign countries. Their price varies between Rs 15,000 to Rs 30,000 and most patients cannot afford it,” says Dr Vishal. 

What’s more? These expensive devices need to be replaced every 6 months. Though the AUM Voice Prosthesis also needs to be replaced, it costs only Rs 50. 

The voice prosthesis is a device made of silicone used to help patients speak when the larynx has been removed. In such surgeries, the windpipe and food pipe are separated from each other to create an opening. The AUM device is placed at this opening and vibrates when air is pushed from the lungs. 

Explaining how it works, Dr. Vishal says the mechanism behind the prosthesis is that instead of the vocal cord vibrating, the food pipe is made to vibrate with the back end of the prosthesis sitting at the food pipe.

“The air passing into the food pipe will vibrate, create noise, and is converted into speech with coordination from the brain. Since food and water should not fall into the lungs, the device is made with only one valve,” says Dr. Vishal, adding that the device weighs 25 grams and is 2.5 centimeters long. 

Helping a friend 

Before developing the device, when Dr. Vishal would come across patients who needed voice boxes, he went out of his way to help them. He would contact several doctors for favors, pharmacies for discounts, and raise funds through crowdfunding. 

While raising funds for one of the patients, Dr. Vishal’s friend- Shashank Mahes promised to donate and help. But he enquired why he depended on other doctors, and why he hasn’t created something on his own? 

Initially, he felt that innovating a device of his own was impossible. He was familiar with the technical aspects of the device but lacked the industrial expertise to turn his idea into a working prototype. 

“Shashank jumped in and converted this impossible dream into a reality using his industrial expertise. Together we put in the required funds and developed the device,” says Dr. Vishal. 

Once the duo received approvals from scientific and ethical committees at HCG, they tested the device on patients. After fine-tuning and making changes, today the device is being used across most cancer centers in the country. The device even bagged a state innovation award at a conference for oncologists. 



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Author

Roshini Muthukumar, a native of Chennai, started her career as a content writer but made a switch to journalism to pursue her passion. She has experience writing about human interest stories, innovative technology, entrepreneurs, research blogs, and more. Previously, Roshini has done internships with The Hindu, Metroplus and worked as a correspondent with The Better India.

 

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