Ruthenium Plaques to treat eye tremors

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(M Chenna Nagaraj)

A Hyderabad based internationally renowned ophthalmologist Dr Santosh G Honowar has developed a low cost brachytherapy Ruthenium Plaque for treatment of eye tumours with the collaboration with Babha Atomic Research Centre (BARC) to bring down the cost of the device drastically.

Hitherto the device was imported from a German private entity since the treatment of tumours began in 2002. What used to cost 10,000 Euros (Rs 9.5 lakhs to 10 lakhs) per Ruthenium plaque will be available for Rs 50,000 under the Government of India’s ‘Make in India’ programme, Dr Santosh Honavar, Head of Ophthalmic Plastic Surgery Department of the Centre for Sight told this correspondent.

The good thing about this indigenous project is that the plaque is developed using nuclear waste generated by various nuclear power plants in the country as the raw material which is otherwise is very difficult to dispose off.

The ophthalmologists designed the plaque used directly to treat the tiny eye tumours while the BARC scientists had fabricated the prototype plaque which was found to be better than the imported ones. Each plaque can be used on multiple patients for one year which will mean a lot for the patients in terms of cost. The BARC provided the plaques free of cost to the centre.

He said there were two kinds of eye tumours. The one affecting children below three years is known as Retina Blastoma while the adults are troubled by melanoma cancer which is a fatal disease if left untreated.

The good thing among children is that most of them can be treated with chemotherapy and laser treatment while 90 percent adults required ruthenium plaque treatment. Another positive aspect was that the patients become blind as soon as they develop the tumour and approach the doctors in the initial stages itself. Eye tumours are usually tiny and can be safely cured if detected early.

He said about 300 cases of eye tumours were detected by the four centres located in Delhi, Bangalore and Chennai. Over 60 patients were already treated in Hyderabad.

He said the BARC scientists had refined the nuclear waste to the finest level and isotopes and devices were of very good meeting all safety standards. “We are totally satisfied with the quality of the Ruthenium plaques and the fabrication by the BARC team was indeed appreciable”, he remarked. Each plaque can be used for one year on multiple patients after through sterilisation, which will mean lower costs for the patients and the hospitals.

Meanwhile Dr Honavar’s name has figured among the top 10 ophthalmologists of the country by Stanford University of the United States of America and Netherlands based technical journal Elsevier. He is a past recipient of Shanti Swaroop Bhatnagar award of Government of India for his innovative treatment of retina blastoma among children. He has published over 270 papers in reputed peer reviewed journals and has over 9000 citations across the globe.

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