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The health cafe' concept is one where we discuss complicated health issues of a very serious nature in a very light and understandable language. The medical jargon often used by doctors do sound like Greek and Latin to many of us. Hear at the health cafe' it is our effort to detail, discuss and focus on these health issues in a very simple language and light cafe like atmosphere. The focus it to create an interactive platform where people at large could get authentic health related information at the click of a mouse from the true experts in the field. Hope you all enjoy reading the health cafe' and you are welcome to respond with your views and queries to our team who are every ready to help you out with your health care needs. THE HEALTH CAFE TEAM

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EECP Therapy - Non Surgical Heart Disease Therapy

EECP Therapy - Non Surgical Heart Disease Therapy
No Knifes, No Needles, No Surgery, No pain, Heart Disease Therapy

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Transplants: A New lease on life

Reba Paul 
Organ transplantation is hailed as one of the greatest advances of modern science in this century, giving millions of people a new chance at life.

Organ transplantation was a confusing, even horrific prospect for people living a few centuries ago to ponder.  All of the ethical, moral issues that the concept brings up in many communities have been allayed over the past few decades, and transplants are now widely considered by doctors and the public alike to be the best medical option for many diseases. In cases involving end stage kidney failure, this is the only solution that can ensure the patient a good quality of life. Organ transplantation is hailed as one of the greatest advances of modern science in this century, giving millions of people a new chance at life.
Based on human physiology, the heart, kidneys, eyes, liver, lungs, pancreas, intestine and the thymus can be transplanted. Tissues can also be transplanted – like bones, the cornea, skin, heart valves. In fact, musculoskeletal and corneal transplants are ten times more prevalent than organ transplants. In the organ transplant area, the kidneys are the most transplanted organs, followed by the liver and then the heart.

What does it entail?
Moving an organ from one body to another for the purpose of replacing the recipient’s damaged or absent organ, is a complicated endeavor. Previously it was a prerequisite that the donor and the recipient have matching or compatible blood groups. This is becoming increasingly flexible now, due to the new drugs in the market. Higher degrees of tissue compatibility are thought to help the success rate of the transplant. The first successful organ transplant happened when a kidney was transplanted between twin brothers in 1954. The main problem faced after a transplant is that the recipients’ body tries to get rid of the foreign organ.  Every body’s immune system clearly knows what belongs in the body and what is a foreign object. So after a new organ is transplanted, the immune system sees it as ‘foreign’ and keeps trying to get rid of it. This is what causes organ rejection. This problem is tackled by giving the recipient medicines that suppress this instinctive response of his immune system – these are called immunosuppressants.

Organ Donation
Any healthy adult who wishes to donate his organ is free to do so. Also, any healthy adult who wishes to bequeath his organs for transplantation after death can also do so. This is one way to positively impact the life of a fellow being even after your time on the planet is done. In case of a natural death, only a few organs can be ‘harvested’ – like the cornea, bone, skin and blood vessels. However, if a person is ‘brain dead’, then many more organs can be successfully harvested to benefit the life of other people – technically almost 37 different organs and tissues can be put to this worthy use.

The Indian Scenario
Generally speaking, chronic organ failure is still not being seen as the serious problem it really is. In India, thanks to improving mortality rates and disease management, most of the attention in the medical scenario is primarily focused on heart disease, diabetes and other such diseases. What we are failing to understand is that a huge chunk of the present population is going down the road that will inevitably lead to organ failure.
The rise in the incidence of organ failure globally has impacted India in many ways. At the time when transplants began to be commercially executed and were becoming popular, India had the rare combination of having trained transplant personnel, good medical facilities, a large impoverished population and lack of legal governance on organ transplantation. This made the country a quagmire of organ transplant activity from the late 1980s onwards. India got a lot of attention globally due to a multitude of reports regarding large-scale transplants being done with kidneys sourced from poor, illiterate donors under questionable circumstances. Following all the media criticism, the Government of India enacted the Transplantation of Human Organs Act (THOA) banning payment for human organ donation.

The Loophole
Despite this, most of the transplants happening in the country are from live donors who get paid for giving their organs. This is due to a loophole in the Act, which says that a donor can give his organs ‘for the reason of affection or attachment towards the recipient or for any other special reason’.  It is estimated that India has approximately 3500–4000 kidney transplants and 150–200 liver transplants happening every year. The main source is live or unrelated donors.
India’s Human Organ Transplantation Act says that a father, mother, brother, or sister can donate organs to the patient. Other live donors go through a screening process by a state transplantation authorization committee to make sure that they are donating organs purely due to emotional attachment to the patient and not for monetary or material gain. The fact that there are so many live, unrelated donors providing organs for the majority of the transplants seem to point to the fact that there is collusion between the agents who source the donors and the authorization committee. Several ‘kidney rackets’ have been busted which have had doctors working with kidney agents to get donors. These donors would have documents fabricated regarding their relationship with the patient, and would be eventually sanctioned by the screening committee. The worst part is that since the whole process is illegal, after the various cuts are taken by the agents and others involved, the donor actually gets only a fraction the amount that the patient pays for the organ. But the question is, when such a huge need for organs exists, should we not have a better solution?
The Multi Organ Harvesting Aid Network Foundation (MOHAN)is a non-governmental organization that has, among many others, been campaigning for more cadaveric transplants. Doctors connected to this organization say that less than 600 cadaveric transplants have been performed in India since the THOA came into being. But the annual number of kidney transplants is over 2000. They point out that ‘there doesn’t have to be a shortage of cadaver organs in India- most relatives of brain dead persons are willing to donate, but there is no system in place in most hospitals to counsel relatives and harvest organs.’
The foundation has written to the health ministry requesting that the government take steps to promote cadaveric transplantation and also enforce stricter scrutiny of live, unrelated donors. They are still waiting for a response. Meanwhile, kidney and other organ rackets flourish in the country. Stray reports surface in the media regarding these from almost all major Indian cities, but no long term official solution seems to be in sight.

The cadaver donation solution
The urgency of the situation is due to the fact that the number of people who need a transplant to save their lives far outnumbers the number of live donors. The only viable solution we are left with is to promote cadaver transplants – which can be done only through people agreeing to donate their organs after death. Oddly enough, most public surveys show that organ donation has high support from the general public. The fact that this is not becoming a reality, is most probably due to the fact that after a patient dies, their relatives are either not aware of this, or are against it, and so the individual’s wishes are not carried out. Statistics say that as many as half of all families decline to donate the organs of their recently deceased loved ones.
In a country populated by more than 1 billion people, the pool for cadaver harvest is understandably high. But in India, the number of cadaver transplants is miniscule in comparison to live donation. Every year, almost 100,000 Indians suffer from kidney failure. Of these about 3,000 actually get a donor kidney, with a very small percentage being from cadavers. In the eight year span between 1995 and 2003, only 524 cadaver transplants were done. The critical shortage of available organs is only getting worse as more people succumb to kidney and liver failure.
The issue gets even more important as we consider that India has an ever increasing number of end stage liver failure patients. Patients who have kidney failure can be helped with therapies like dialysis. But liver failure has no such therapy, and transplant is the only solution. Of the majority of liver failure patients, only a handful get timely transplants that save their lives. The same is the issue with heart-lung transplants. Unlike the kidney, which a donor could give one and still survive well on the functioning of the remaining one, no one except a cadaver can donate his heart and lungs.

Cadaver Donor Program
It would not be an exaggeration to say that unless India develops a good cadaver donation program, we will remain right where we are now, with many of our citizens dying for lack of organs. This problem has to be addressed from the side of the government and policy makers, if any significant change is to take place.
Awareness has to be created about the existing problem, and the public has to be encouraged to be cadaver donors. The family unit has to be informed, and there has to be a way of ensuring that the individual who wishes to donate will have his wishes honored after his death. There should also be a practical and efficient organ retrieval mechanism that is implemented on a national level.
Well trained staff should be present in hospitals to educate and inform families about cadaver donation – in a way that this sensitive issue is handled impeccably without compromising on the optimum time for organ retrieval. One brain dead patient can help seven patients in critical stages, to lead normal lives. Another option to consider is that a national policy could be created whereby every patient in a hospital who becomes brain dead will have his organs harvested, unless otherwise clearly specified to hospital authorities. This way more organs can be made available for the living. Infrastructure should be created for harvesting, storing, biochemical work that will facilitate the best organ-recipient match. Organ donation is possibly the last and most noble act that any human being could undertake; don’t make it so hard to do.

Paid Donation – No good for Donor?
A group of independent American researchers, who tracked down over 300 individuals who had sold a kidney in Chennai, India, found that:
•         The donors received far less money than what had been promised to them during the process of initial bargaining
•         Instead of improving, their family income declined by about one-third after donation, and the number of participants living below the poverty line increased by about 20%
•         75% of the participants who chose to sell their kidney to get out of debt, continued to be in debt
•         More than 95% of the sellers admitted that the desire to help a gravely ill patient with kidney disease was not a factor in their decision
•         Almost 90% of them reported significant decline in their health status
•         In many cases, women had been forced to donate against their wishes because the husbands needed money.
When asked what advice they would give to others thinking of selling a kidney, more than 80% said that they would not recommend such a step. The authors concluded that the Authorization Committee failed in its duty, shattering the myth that the money earned by selling an organ helps the donor to improve their financial standard and get a fresh start in life.

Iranian Model of Organ Donation
The Iranian model of transplants is seen as the one that is the most fair to the recipient as well as the donor. It is a state supported program – the compensation and regulation are done by the state. This program started functioning in 1988, and gives financial incentives to living donors who volunteer their organs. These living unrelated donors get a sum of money, without having to go through any middlemen. Anyone who needs a kidney gets it. However, there are regulations in place that ensure that transplant tourism does not get the benefit of this. So foreigners cannot have a renal transplant from an Iranian national in Iran, nor can they be a donor.
After this system was in place, renal transplants increased so much that by 1999, the waiting list was eliminated. Right now, there is no renal transplant waiting list in Iran. The advantage of this model is that many of the ethical issues surrounding live, unrelated donation are eliminated, since the donor is directly connecting to the government for his compensation. Also, he will not know who is going to get his kidney, since it going to an organ pool and given to the patient who is the best match for it.
All hospital expenses are also paid for by the government, so even poorer patients can afford to have a transplant. The transplants are only performed in government hospitals that are affiliated to universities. The transplantation teams, including the doctors, have no connection with identifying possible donors and no middlemen are involved.  More than 50% of Iranians who had end stage kidney failure are living with a functioning transplanted kidney. It is the only country that has successfully eliminated a transplant waiting list in this manner.

mail to rebekaah.paul@gmail.com the author of this article published in the Novemebr 2011 Issue of THE HEALTH CAFE'. Sign in for the health cafe newsletter for a complimentary annual e-subscription. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Appendix : Cut it or Keep it....

Is the appendix just a useless evolutionary vestige, or does it have a role to play in our health. New evidence suggests that it may be persisting in our systems for a purpose!
Case 1: My 40-year-old friend collapsed with a sudden abdominal pain one morning. With no prior warning, she came close to an absolute blackout. In minutes, the pain was gone completely. Nevertheless, she went to a hospital to get it checked out. Routine scans were done to check if her appendix was to blame, but the technician saw no problems with her ‘evolutionary vestige’. All through the morning, one thought kept coming back to mind. Her IUD was long past removal date – maybe that was to blame. The doctor she met later, however, insisted that she be admitted immediately for an appendectomy. She ventured that she felt totally fine, and that she would check with a gynecologist about the IUD first…the doctor immediately proposed that she could be admitted, have an appendectomy and also have the IUD removed by his wife, who was a gynecologist. Deeply troubled by that option, my friend insisted on going back home, despite dire predictions of doom by the doctor. The next day, she got the IUD removed, and has had no ailments since. She says, “I understand that the appendix is considered unnecessary…but it’s something that’s inside my body that wasn’t giving me any trouble! Why should he insist on removing it even when it is fine? I was being pushed to do a surgery that was totally unnecessary!”
Case 2: A patient comes into the hospital complaining of acute abdominal pain. The doctor diagnoses acute appendicitis and surgery is immediately scheduled. Later, the patient finds out that his appendix was on the verge of rupturing and that the timeliness of the operation had saved his life. “It was such unbelievable pain! I am so relieved that it could be solved by such a simple procedure – and thankfully we don’t need the appendix, so it’s not going to affect my life!”
Yes, it’s true that the appendix is considered a remnant of an evolutionary process by evolutionists. But is it a ‘useless’ mass of tissue in our body? The human body is a super-intelligent mechanism that harmoniously conducts millions of processes in every second. If something was really useless, why would the body still have it inside? Is it right of us to see the appendix and the tonsils so lightly – and choose to throw them out at the slightest provocation? Does it all come down to a comparative decision? Or does the appendix only function as a source of financial support for surgeons? Let’s find out.
The Unwanted Appendix
Till some time ago, science on the whole considered that the appendix was a part of us that the body missed out or forgot to discard when we evolved into homo sapiens. However, it has always been the focus of a lot of discussion and debate. It is understood that the appendix may have had a big role to play in the past, but after our bodies evolved to what they are now, their role diminished.
It has been widely considered that the appendix is a shrunken remainder of a large intestinal tube, from which our intestines evolved to their current state. Inside the body, the appendix is a small, finger-sized projection attached to the large intestine in the lower right area of the abdomen. It is usually between two to eight inches long. The appendix is longest in childhood and gradually shrinks through adult life.
Scientists’ view of the appendix is changing from what they believed in the past. A growing consensus is that the most likely function of the human appendix is as a part of the gastrointestinal immune system. Some opine that reasonable arguments exist for suspecting that the appendix may have a function in immunity as the appendix is highly vascular, is lymphoid-rich, and produces immune cells normally involved with the gut-associated lymphoid tissue. It’s also known to be a storehouse for the ‘good’ bacteria also.
Appendicitis is a painful inflammation of the appendix. The condition starts as a pain in the centre of the abdomen. It then travels to the lower right-hand side and gradually gets worse.
Appendicitis is a medical emergency that usually requires urgent surgery to remove the appendix. If left untreated, the appendix can burst and cause potentially life-threatening infections. It’s not exactly clear what the causes of appendicitis are, although it’s thought to occur when something, usually a small piece of faeces, blocks the entrance of the appendix, causing it to swell.
Appendicitis typically starts with a pain in the middle of your abdomen that may come and go. Within hours the pain travels to the lower right-hand side, where the appendix lies, and becomes constant and severe.
Pressing the appendix area, coughing or walking, may make the pain worse. You may lose your appetite, feel sick and suffer from constipation, diarrhoea, vomiting and high fever.
Go for Surgery
An inflamed appendix will most probably rupture if not removed. Rupturing spreads the infection throughout the abdomen, creating a potentially fatal situation.  In most cases, the appendix will have to be surgically removed. This is one of the most common operations and its success rate is excellent.
Surgery is most commonly performed as keyhole surgery (consisting of three small cuts). Open surgery (a single large cut over the appendix area) is usually carried out if the appendix has burst.
Are there any other ‘spare parts’ in the human body?
Male nipples
Men have nipples and mammary tissue which can be stimulated to produce milk. They can also get breast cancer.
Wisdom teeth
Early humans had an extra row of molars to help with the vast quantity of vegetable fibre they had to chew. Now, about 35% of the population does not develop wisdom teeth at all.
The remains of a tail lost long before man began to walk upright six million years ago.
Spare ribs
Humans have 12 ribs but about 8% of humans have an extra pair, as do chimps and gorillas. They live with that extra pair of ribs!
The appendix does have a use: Re-booting the gut
For generations medical orthodoxy has maintained that the appendix is useless, warranting attention only for its tendency to becomepainfully inflamed and requiring swift removal. But now the reputation of this unwanted little sac in the human gut has beenrehabilitated by a theory from a team of immunologists.
Scientists have found that the appendix acts as a “good safe house” for bacteria that are essential for healthy digestion. In effect, theappendix ‘re-boots’ the digestive system after a bout of amoebic dysentery or cholera or any case of extreme diarrhea that purges thegut.
This function has been made obsolete by modern, industrialised society; in dense populations, people pick up essential bacteria fromeach other, allowing gut organisms to re-grow without help from the appendix, the researchers said.
But in earlier times, when land were more sparsely populated and whole regions could be wiped out by an epidemic of cholera, theappendix provided survivors with a vital individual stockpile of suitable bacteria.
“The function of the appendix seems related to the massive amount of bacteria that populates the human digestive system,” said BillParker, a professor of surgery and one of the scientists responsible for establishing its status as a useful organ. “The location of theappendix, just below the normal one-way flow of food and germs in the large intestine, helps support the theory.”

New Ways To Battle The bulge

Thanks to changing lifestyles, poor eating habits and sedentary jobs, an increasing number of people are hitting the overweight mark. As a result, they are busy lightening their pockets in an effort to lighten their bodies and get rid of those unsightly bulges and flab. Plastic surgery is steadily becoming a way of life to a certain section of urban upper middle class individuals.
One of the most popular procedures for fat reduction is liposuction. However, its main drawback is that it is mostly done on patients who are only within five to ten pounds in excess of their ideal weight. This is where people start to look for a backup plan for getting rid of that unsightly fat! Would topical creams effectively remove or lessen specific fatty areas? Many non-prescription creams, lotions and pills declare that they will be absorbed into the layer of fat and make it vanish. You wish!
Getting rid of unwanted fat is a booming business, and naturally has numerous bogus solutions that ‘desperately seeking to lose weight’ people flock to. So, what is the world to do? Is there no other answer in sight? Something that’s non-invasive, nonsurgical, and less expensive, which would help to improve our thighs, abs and hips…
People looking for a safe procedure for liposuction…rejoice! You can now get rid of your fat without anesthesia risks, without invasive surgery! It’s called Ultrasound assisted Laser Fat Reduction, and is now available in India. The process has been developed and utilized in several countries all over the world as an alternative to conventional liposuction.
Like most plastic surgeries, the technique is continually changing, expanding, and improving each year.
The basic challenge of any fat reduction procedure is:
To remove the right amount of fat
To cause the least disturbance of neighboring tissue, such as blood vessels and connective tissue
To leave the person’s fluid balance undisturbed
To cause the least discomfort to both patient and  surgeon
As techniques have been refined, many ideas have emerged that have brought conventional liposuction closer to being safer, easier, less uncomfortable, and more effective. The marketing that goes on however, makes it harder for the consumer to distinguish truth from exaggeration.
The good news about Ultrasound Assisted Laser Liposuction is that such complications can be avoided. It causes less discomfort for the patient, both during the procedure and afterwards; decreases blood loss and can access larger areas. This new technology focuses on only the target fat cells in the body and essentially melts away the fat. The broken down fat cells are moved through the body through the body’s metabolic system and discarded naturally.
How it works:
The reason this is preferred by many is that there is more precision to the removal of fat, and it is non-invasive. Carefully calibrated energy is directed into the skin. The fat cells in our body absorb the ultrasound energy, whereas the other tissue around the fat deposits will reflect the ultrasound. This helps the surgeon to target the fat cells clearly, without posing a risk to the other tissue surrounding it. The fat is liquefied, and can be naturally expelled by the body, or is sometimes suctioned out with a small suctioning cannula.
This procedure works best in removing small to medium fat buildup – like behind the knees, around the neck or chin or arm fat. When larger areas are targeted, you will need to have some device invading your skin to suction out the larger amounts of fat being liquefied. This kind of a procedure can also be effectively used to remove deep seated tumors, which may be under many fat layers. The cost of the procedure will depend on how many sessions are required, how much fat has accumulated, you age etc.
So, thanks to advances in technology, you can lay your fears to rest. There are several back up plans available to get rid of the hideous results of our dietary indulgences. Of course, all this is possible only if we are ready to dig deep into our pockets, so weigh your options and decide what’s best for you!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Mobile mania To Be or not to Be?

Article by Reba Paul 
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The jury’s still out on whether mobile phones are dangerous to the human body. Firmly in the clutches of today’s mobile phone culture, we are at a point where we need to understand it better, and figure out how to use it in a way that minimizes possible harm.

It’s hardly been here two decades and we already can’t imagine life without it! Many people are mulling over whether they should continue using it extensively or curb usage. Needless to say, the question of doing away with the cell phone altogether will never arise. We have already crossed that point – they have become gadgets that most of us cannot do without – even though we’ve been hearing that radiation is bad for us. So all that’s left to be done is figure out how we can use it with least damage to ourselves.

Technically speaking, the ‘real’ killing that mobile phone use is responsible for, has mostly happened on the road – with drivers using the phone while driving, causing fatalities. Statistics say that drivers on the phone are four times more likely to crash their vehicles. Many countries have made it illegal to use mobile phones while driving – and killing someone else or yourself because you were using the phone on the road, is the greatest health hazard that this instrument poses.

Unfortunately, many suspect that this is not the only risk that this small handy instrument places upon the human race. Ever since the mobile phone has been in use, people have been voicing their concerns about the dangers that its electromagnetic radiation could bring. Of course, it would take us close scrutiny of a whole generation to really know the benefits and harm of any new thing. So we stand at a very interesting juncture – it could be terrible for us, but we love it too much, and it’s much too early to really tell. All we can do now is to take stock of what early studies are showing, and use our own guidance system to decide how we want to approach the issue individually.

We would like to believe that science has all the answers. Unfortunately, since the very foundation of science is that it pursues answers, most often it raises as many questions as the answers it provides. This is an inevitable part of the process of getting to the bottom of any truth.

Most of the larger studies about the harms of mobile phone radiation state that they have been unable to find a link between cell phone radiation and cancer. Interestingly, many of the studies have connections with phone companies themselves, so the skepticism regarding the findings is understandable. Many other smaller studies have been consistently showing that radiation seems to have harmful effects on life on the cellular level. This may be why major studies done on groups of adults using cell phones did not throw up any conclusive evidence. When damage is done in minor quantities on the cellular level, it takes a lot more time to cumulatively show up in the body. Most of the studies use words like ‘there are implications’ – which means that a link between DNA degeneration and radiation is suspected, but they are unable to state this conclusively. Here are some study findings:

•…. In 1995, in the journal Bioelectromagnetics, Henry Lai and Narenda P. Singh reported damaged DNA after two hours of microwave radiation at levels considered safe according to government standards.
•…. In December 2004, a study done across Europe called REFLEX, covered evidence from 12 collaborating laboratories. They found compelling evidence that there was DNA damage in cells in in-vitro cultures. These were exposed to 0.3 – 2 watts/kg. There were also indications of chromosome damage, changes in some genes and a higher rate of cell division.
•…. In Athens, a team studied the effects of radiation on fruit flies – and saw a reduction in the reproductive capacity of these little creatures when they were exposed to six minutes of 900 MHz for a period of five days.
•…. Studies suggest that rats exposed to microwaves similar to mobile phone radiation displayed breaks in their DNA. Mice exposed to radiation for eighteen months developed brain tumors.
•…. A study conducted at the University of Montpellier in France exposed 6000 chick embryos to radiation. They found that the heavily exposed chick eggs were five times less likely to survive than the control group. This raises questions about possible effects that excessive radiation could have on fetuses.
•…. In 2009, Australian research subjected in vitro samples of human sperm to radio-frequency radiation. They saw that sperm that were put under a higher absorption rate had a decrease in motility and vitality, had an increase in oxidative stress, and increased DNA fragmentation.
Studies also indicate that radiation interferes with the chemicals in the human body – inhibiting the production of melatonin, which in turn inhibits estrogen production, and could cause cancer. Most of these studies are yet to be ‘peer-reviewed’ but they have all been done by smaller, independent teams. Your own research will help you draw conclusions about their validity and honesty. These are all early indications that it may be harmful to overuse or over expose yourself to cell phone radiation.
Interestingly, the WHO has classified mobile phone radiation as being ‘possibly carcinogenic’ – saying that there could be ‘some risk’ and strongly advises additional research into the long-term dangers this could bring. So, we stand at a point where we have no hard evidence that cell phones cause cancer or other disease, but are increasingly getting evidence that they could. What’s most unnerving is that the radiation that could cause such harm is invisible – entering and leaving our bodies without us even knowing about it.
It’s not just our bodies that are impacted by the radiation changes through the handsets and the telecommunications towers. Scientists say that the towers could be responsible for disrupting the internal navigation systems of insects like bees. Over a period of time, this could cause a disruption in our food chain and the agriculture industry, since bees are responsible for a lot of pollination of crops.
Advocacy groups and concerned scientists and doctors have initiated many movements in the USA and Europe that urge lawmakers to reconsider how and where cell phone towers are located, and to revise policies about keeping schools, retirement homes and healthcare institutions free from this kind of radiation.
Until there is more conclusive evidence, it may be wise to adopt a ‘better safe than sorry’ policy on the almighty cell phone – especially in the case of children. Their smaller heads, thinner skulls and higher tissue conductivity, make them prone to absorbing more energy from a cell phone. There are some products on the market that say they can reduce the impact of mobile phone radiation. You could check these out and investigate the usefulness of these for yourself. If you feel that there is enough evidence to be wary of cell phone radiation, you can start changing things by limiting your phone usage starting today.

Help! I’m addicted to my Phone!

Here are some tips that decrease your radiation exposure:
• Limit the use of cell phones- keep calls short.
• Text instead of talking whenever you can.
• Wear an air tube headset (not regular wired headset). The regular wired headset has been found to intensify radiation into the ear canal – serving as an antenna, attracting electromagnetic frequencies from the surroundings.
• Do not put the cell phone in a pocket or a belt while in use or while it is on. The body tissue in the lower body area has good conductivity and absorbs radiation more quickly than the head. One study shows that men who wear cell phones near their groin could have their sperm count dropping by as much as 30%.
• After dialling, wait for the call to connect before placing the phone next to the ear.
• Do not use the cell phone in enclosed metal spaces such as vehicles or elevators, where devices may use more power to establish connection.
• Do not make a call when the signal strength is weak (1 bar or less), because stronger radiation is emitted by the phone.
• Purchase a phone with a low SAR. Most phones have a SAR level listed in its instruction manual. The SAR level is a way of measuring the quantity of RF energy that is absorbed by the body.
• Be a little old fashioned – use landlines.
• Keep cell phone off most of the time. Ask people to leave messages and then call them back from a landline.

Safety First!

1. A small chip-like cell phone microwave radiation protection device is available, which absorbs electromagnetic energy waves from your mobile phone, protecting the body from these emissions.
2.  Use your cell phone for emergencies, not long rambling conversations
3. DO NOT allow your children to use or play with mobile phones. Their bones are less dense than ours so they can be affected by radiation faster than an adult. Make it a rule that children use a cell phone only during emergencies.
4. Do not use your cell phone when you drive. This has been the cause of many fatal road accidents. If you absolutely HAVE to, use a hands free mobile car kit, so you can keep your hands on the steering wheel at all times.
5. Do not use the cell phone when you drive – for another reason than the previous –  when you are moving, your phone is constantly trying to get the best signal – which means that radiation is intensified!
6. Some companies have developed materials and gadgets that act as radiation shields, so check these out and if you are convinced, then use them.
7. Keep your phone out of the bedroom at night. This is the time when your pineal gland and other chemical processes are working to heal and rejuvenate your body. The worst thing you could do is place EM radiation at close quarters to your body at this time.

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The Health Cafe' - Team

The Heart that Isn’t

Cardiology could be on the verge of a revolutionary breakthrough – a mechanical device that works as well as a human heart is just around the corner! But would that make the recipient a semi-robot…?

For most people, the mention of ‘heart’ brings to mind the symbol of love – the famed and much loved cherry red symbol that bombards you on Valentine’s Day. This symbol of the heart is reportedly a representation of a 6th century B.C. aphrodisiac found in Africa.

In real life, the heart looks quite a bit different from its symbolic representation. Weighing in at about 5 ounces, the human heart beats roughly once per second – that’s roughly 2.5 billion times in a life time. On an average, it pumps 74 liters of blood every hour through the adult body.

Working constantly from the minute we take human form, with many additional stresses loaded onto it during our adult life, it’s no wonder the heart is usually the first of our organs to give out. Since human beings are not very good at changing their lifestyle to sustain healthy bodies or healthy hearts – doctors have been trying for more than four decades to develop an artificial device that can take over the pumping function of the heart. The search has been to develop a machine that does not wear out, break down or cause clots and infections.

The Artificial Heart

An artificial heart is a mechanical device that replaces the heart. Artificial hearts are typically used as a temporary device that works in your body till a real heart transplant is possible; or to permanently replace the heart in case transplantation is impossible. The first artificial heart was the Jarvik-7, designed by Robert Jarvik.

The first time an artificial heart was successfully transplanted into a human was in 1969 in Houston. This was to act as a bridge for a transplant.  The patient died later due to complications of an unrelated acute pulmonary infection following the heart transplant. In 2004, the FDA in the USA approved the SynCardia temporary Total Artificial Heart. Originally designed as a permanent replacement heart, it is currently approved as a bridge to human heart transplant. There have been more than 900 implants of the Total Artificial Heart, accounting for more than 210 patient years of life on this device.

Another device – the AbioCor has also been recently approved for use in severe biventricular end-stage heart disease patients, who are not eligible for heart transplant and have no other viable treatment options. As of April 2011, 14 patients had been implanted with the AbioCor, with one patient living for 512 days with the AbioCor. This device is fully implantable, meaning that there are no wires or tubes penetrating the skin, which mean there are less chances of infection.

Heart with No Beat Offers New Lease on Life

Of late, radical advances are being made, with Dr. Billy Cohn and Dr. Bud Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute announcing that they have developed a machine that can function as a heart. The device is a set of simple whirling rotors — which means people may soon get a heart that has no beat!
Inside the Institute’s animal research laboratory is an 8-month-old calf with a soft brown coat named Abigail. Cohn and Frazier removed Abigail’s heart and replaced it with two centrifugal pumps.”If you listen to her chest with a stethoscope, you wouldn’t hear a heartbeat,” says Cohn. “If you examined her arteries, there’s no pulse. If you hooked her up to an EKG, she’d be flat-lined.” But she is a fully active, healthy calf!

They took two medical implants known as’ ventricular assist devices’ and hooked them together. A ventricular assist device has a screw-like rotor of blades, which pushes the blood forward in a continuous flow. The doctors say the continuous-flow pump should last longer than other artificial hearts and cause fewer problems. That’s because each side has just one moving part: the constantly whirling rotor.

In Queensland’s University of Technology, a new counter-flow heart pump is being developed which is based on a double-output centrifugal model – it pushes the blood in such a way that correct flow happens through both sides of the heart. This means that the left and right sides of the heart are supported at the same time – much like a real heart! Lead researcher Associate Professor Andy Tan says “what’s so groundbreaking is that it is the first device to combine the function of two pumps into one unit.”

Finding a technology that can serve as a replacement heart is crucial – especially because the number of people suffering from heart failure is increasing and the numbers of heart donors are not rising. So the only way to reduce the number of deaths is to find another solution.

The stages of final design and patenting are yet to be negotiated before these devices reach the chest cavities of heart patients. The world will be watching to see how effective these devices are as a solution to replacing the human heart. And even if it does, will this mean that the person having it will be semi-robot? Will they lose out on feelings and emotions? All that remains to be seen, but we can be sure of one thing. If it does work, many artificial heart recipients will be thanking their surgeons, ‘from the bottom of their hearts’!

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Check for microalbuminuria

Your pee can give you clues about your risk for heart or kidney disease.

Breakthroughs in the technology of medical testing offer a new and incredibly effective new way of catching heart disease in the bud. Testing for microalbuminurea in your urine can now predict how prone you are to heart disease!

When an individual’s urine has small but abnormal amounts of protein, this is referred to as microalbuminurea. This is measured at a time when the amounts are so small that they do not show up in the conventional dipstick method. (30-300mg of albumin excretion by the kidneys over a period of 24 hours.)

The dipstick method of measuring albumin in the urine, only detects protein excretion that exceeds 300 mg per 24 hours. This is the standard range that is currently denoted as macroalbuminuria, or gross proteinuria(high levels of protein in the urine). With new testing, even smaller levels of protein in urine can be spotted, which means that conditions like kidney and cardiac disease can be spotted at a very early stage and steps can be taken that may even be able to reverse the condition!

‘Albumin’ is the most common protein found in blood. In people with normal blood levels, the kidneys will not allow albumin to be excreted. So when there is albumin in the urine, it’s a sign that something may be wrong. Microalbumin in the urine is an early indicator of kidney disease. Microalbuminuria is almost unheard of in childhood and before adolescence. Factors that contribute to the incidence of microalbuminuria are: duration of diabetes, high blood pressure, genetic susceptibility.

Microalbuminuria is most commonly associated with diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease setting in as a result of diabetes), but there are other causes, which include glomerulonephritis, amyloidosis and other forms of kidney disease. Detecting microalbuminuria early is important because it is often a sign that the patient may be at risk of developing overt proteinuria (macroalbuminuria) and renal failure. It is also a risk factor for cardiovascular disease.

Nephrologists and diabetologists have been measuring microalbuminuria in their patients to check for the development and progression of kidney disease. But urine is also being increasingly recognized as a sensitive predictor for cardiovascular risk. Studies show a clear relationship between microalbuminuria and cardiovascular events. If this is identified early, medication can be used to work against the condition and have a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system.

At present the incidence of type 2 diabetes is increasing world-wide, with half the population unaware that they are diabetic. The result is an increase in deaths that are caused by end-stage renal disease and cardiovascular disease. Type 2 diabetes mellitus is a silent killer, bringing with it many life-threatening complications on different organs like the kidney and heart. So there is a need for early identification of patients who are at greatest risk. By spotting the risk early, patients can start on renal and cardiovascular protective treatments early and have better quality of life.

As with every test, microalbuminuria too has the drawback of having false positive results. False positive reports happen when the patient has done strenuous exercise or has urinary tract infection, or severe hypertension, or some prolonged illness. But the chances of false positive in microalbuminuria are minimal. The best part of this new finding is that now, we can spot the onset of two potentially lethal conditions right when they start, and that too with something as simple as a urine test!


Breath. It’s the first thing we take when we come into this world. It’s the one thing we continue to take constantly throughout our life – without even noticing it. Human beings can live without food and water for several days, but will die if deprived of air for more than a few minutes.

The breath is the all-important element in sustaining life. Our breath cleanses our bodies, brings balance to our chemical processes – regulates our hormones and can help us recover from a multitude of illnesses. Every breath that we take in, brings in cleansing oxygen to our bodies and every exhalation throws out carbon dioxide and a host of toxins. Almost 70% of toxins leave our bodies through our breath. Small wonder then, that ancient Indian knowledge focused on ways to control and sustain this vital force in our bodies in the best way possible. The Indian systems of Yoga and Ayurveda have constantly recommended breathing exercises for good health and longevity. Referred to as ‘Pranayama’, – there are several types of these breathing exercises that Yoga masters have formulated.

‘Pranayama’ means ‘extension/control of the Life Force’ (Prana – Life force; Ayama – to draw out, extend or control). The Yoga Sutras say that pranayama is a way to attain higher states of awareness. By doing pranayama, one achieves a balance in the upward and downward flowing energy in the human body – which brings a balance of good health to the mind as well as body. Generally our inward and outward breath flows through our bodies involuntarily – it’s something we do thoughtlessly. The tradition of Yoga says that when this activity is done with more awareness and various techniques of control, then our vital life force can be made more balanced.

Studies have shown that the way we breathe contributes to our bodily functions. We are told to take long deep breaths when we are disturbed or anxious. Deep breaths calm us down when we are angry. Our breath is directly connected with influencing our mental states. Pranayama exercises have been designed with one intention in mind – to inspire, infuse, control, regulate and balance the ‘prana’ (vital life force) that keeps our bodies alive. It is the one exercise that can improve all life processes.

There are about seventy types of pranayamas mentioned in traditional texts. The tradition of Hatha Yoga focuses on eight types of Pranayama – Kapalbhati, Agnisar, Bhastrika, Ujjayee, Bhramari, Nadi Shodhana (Anuloma-Viloma), Sheetali, Sheetakari and Surya Bhedan. If you have been to a yoga class, it is very likely that you have done two of these – Kapalbhati and Nadi Shodhana.  This is probably because these two done in tandem, can bring about the best healing results with regards to chronic diseases.
Article by Reba Paul @ The Health cafe " Lets Talk Health" - October 2011.

Kapalbhati – Lustre to the Face
Popularized by Baba Ramdev in recent times – this is the breathing exercise where you take a deep breath and then forcefully expel it by strongly contracting your diaphragm repeatedly. Oxygen consumption increases, carbon dioxide is flushed out. Kapalbhati has been found to de-stress the mind, and bring calmness and clarity to the practitioner. Found to be extremely beneficial for warding off respiratory illnesses from colds to tuberculosis and emphysema; remedies stomach ailments, strengthens circulatory system; stimulates and regulates hormones; invigorates, cleanses and revitalizes brain cells. It also helps in weight loss and counteracts depression.To be done twice daily for best results.
Warning: To be practiced on an empty stomach, to be done gently and increased gradually by chronic disease patients; should only be done with expert supervision by patients suffering from heart disease, high B.P., spondylosis, slip disc and hernia; should be avoided during pregnancy and periods.

Agnisar – The Essence of Fire
In Agnisar – the stomach is withdrawn towards the backbone as far as possible repeatedly. This is done after all of the breath has been expelled from the lungs. The practitioner holds the breath while doing several such contractions. This cleansing pranayama strengthens the fire within our bodies – which is crucial to the functioning of the digestive system. It improves vitality in the body, awakening our inner energy and strengthening the internal organs. It is said to cure asthma and tuberculosis as well as a host of phlegm-related problems. Healthy women are advised to do this pranayama after childbirth as it helps to tighten up the abdominal and pelvic muscles and bring the internal organs back to their initial condition. Agnisar makes our digestive organs function optimally – ensuring that the foundation for good health is strong within our bodies.
Warning: Not to be done on a full stomach; not to be done by people with high B.P., heart problems, ulcers and hernia; pregnant women should also avoid this, as should people with ear, nose and eye problems.

Bhastrika – Bellows Breath
As the name suggests – the Bellows Breath is where you intake and expel the air from your lungs forcefully  – similar to the air pushed in and out of the bellows. This is a powerful exercise that is basically a state of controlled hyperventilation. Bhastrika increases warmth in the body;destroys phlegm (thus working against asthma, sinusitis etc.); it eliminates wind, bile and phlegm related diseases; it activates and invigorates the liver, pancreas and spleen and also stimulates the metabolic rate.
Warning: Not to be done if you are pregnant or suffering from high B.P.

Ujjayi – Victorious Breath
In the Ujjayi, one’s throat is constricted and the breath is inhaled through the nose, with a hissing sound – like a sigh with the mouth closed; holding the breath for a few seconds before exhaling deeply. According to B.K.S. Iyengar, “this pranayama aerates the lungs, removes phlegm, gives endurance, soothes the nerves and tones the entire system. Ujjayi done in a reclining position, is ideal for persons suffering from high blood pressure and coronary troubles.” This pranayama is said to be a miracle remedy for thyroid problems, cures snoring, is beneficial in healing throat problems – including asthma, tonsils, colds and coughs.

Bhramari – Humming Bee Breath
This pranayama exercise has the practitioner making a sound while inhaling and exhaling – usually an ‘Om’ is chanted with the ‘m’ drawn out. This exercise is said to work miracles in healing throat problems. It calms the mind, elevates the mood and reduces stress; it is also beneficial in reducing anger, anxiety, insomnia and blood pressure.  Practitioners experience a speeding up of healing and great post-surgery benefits from this breathing.

Nadi Shodhana/ Anuloma-Viloma – Alternate Nostril Breathing
One of the most popular pranayama exercises – the practitioner breathes in through the right nostril, holds the breath and then exhales through the left, repeating the process through the other nostril. It is only recently that scientists have discovered a connection between the nasal cycle and brain function. Yogis have known this for years. It is to bring a balance to the left and right brain hemispheres that this pranayama was designed. This is reputedly one of the most beneficial of all breathing exercises – infusing the blood with oxygen, revitalizing and purifying the body. The practitioner feels clear headed and calm. It detoxifies the blood, calms the mind and soothes anxieties. The millions of nerves or ‘nadis’ contained in our body are purified with this technique. The main purpose of this pranayama is to balance the dual forces of physical and mental energy in the practitioner’s body.
It is highly recommended for individuals who suffer from depression, insomnia, hypertension, high B.P., heart problems, fits of anger and Parkinsons.

Sheetali and Sheetakari – Beat the Heat
These pranayamas are the cooling breath, used during the hot Indian summers to cool and calm the body and mind. Sheetali is done by sticking the tongue out, curling up the sides like a tube and breathing in through this appendage, and breathing out through the nose. In Sheetkari the tongue is placed at the base of the upper teeth, with jaw gently closed and lips slightly parted – inhaling through the teeth, with a hissing sound. Apart from regulating the temperature of the body, these techniques also reduce emotional excitation and tensions. Sheetali refreshes the body, mind and also aids blood purification. It is good for combating high B.P., constipation, indigestion, acidity, ulcer, skin disease and spleen enlargement. It is said that a regular practitioner will be safe from poison and viral infections. Sheetkari improves the disposition – keeping you agile, in high spirits and active throughout the day. It relieves hunger and thirst and clears the complexion – slowing down the appearance of wrinkles and blemishes.
Warning: Avoid this exercise during cold weather, and when you have a cold, cough and other respiratory illnesses. Arthritis or low B.P.  and heart patients should consult a doctor or yoga expert before doing this.

Surya Bheda – Activating the Sun
This pranayama technique focuses on breathing exclusively through the right nostril. The right nostril is considered to be the doorway to the Sun energy in our body. By activating this energy, the body is supported to fight against ‘Vata’ diseases; gas in the abdomen, rhinitis and different kinds of neuralgia. It awakens Kundalini and steadies the concentration of the mind. It increases the digestive fire and appetite and purifies the nerves.
Warning: Should be avoided if one is suffering from fever or diarrhea. People with heart disease, epilepsy, hypertension and high Pitta or acidity should not do this pranayama.
As you can see, incorporating pranayama into your daily routine can be extremely beneficial to long term health. It can be used to correct a variety of ailments. More importantly, if you are healthy right now, starting a breathing routine can be crucial in safeguarding you from going the usual route of ‘decaying with age’.

Pranayama helps you regularize and lower your breathing rate – which is supposed to determine how long you live. The understanding is that the less number of breath you take, the longer you live. It improves blood circulation, meaning that more oxygen is available in your body. This ensures vitality, high immunity and quick healing. More oxygen in the blood also means more oxygen to the heart muscles – making a healthy heart! All of the internal organs benefit from breathing exercises – the lungs, abdomen, intestines, kidneys and pancreas. But the trump card lies in the fact that something so simple as breathing can play such a huge role in mental health. Studies show that pranayama is helpful in treating a wide range of stress related disorders.
A pranayama practitioner develops a steady mind, better judgement and perception and a healthy life. A daily routine can be started at any age, provided the lessons are given by a trained professional. So what are you waiting for? Find a good yoga teacher, and start breathing your way to good health!

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Easy Breezy Breath of Health!

Did you know that almost 70% of the toxins produced in your body actually leave through your breath?  So when you don’t breathe right, most of the toxins don’t leave; they accumulate in different parts of your body, and over time cause disease. So,  how about trying to breathe your way to a cleaner, fresher body?
Your nose holds far more than just mucus and nasal hair. It holds the potential to energizing and calming your body and mind.

Left, Right

The breath through the left nostril calms the body and the breath through the right nostril energizes you. When you breathe in through the left nostril, the right hemisphere of your brain is activated. This side of your brain is the ‘feeling’ side, which holds your creativity, emotions etc. Breathing through the right nostril activates the right side of your brain – which is the ‘thinking’ side. It holds your logic, linearity, mechanical and technical perception etc. You need both sides of your brain to work in a complementary and harmonious way, without one overshadowing the other. The alternate breathing technique is the best way to ensure this. When you do this breathing, you calm down your overworked left brain and awaken your ignored right brain.

The Purifying Breath

While you are doing this breathing exercise, you need to hold your right hand in a certain manner. Make a loose fist with your right hand. Now, open up your thumb from the fist, then open up the ring and little finger. You should have your index and middle finger touching your palm somewhere below the base of the thumb. Hold this position without straining your fingers, be easy and gentle. As you do the exercise, you may manipulate the fingers a bit for better comfort. As far as possible, do this exercise on an empty stomach, or three hours after a meal.
1.. Place your right thumb against the right nostril and gently close the nostril. Do not push hard against your nose.
2.. Inhale – a long and gentle breath- through your left nostril
3.. Pause for a second.
4.. With your thumb still holding the right nostril closed, bring your ring finger to your left nostril and close it. Release the thumb from the right nostril.
5.. Exhale through the right nostril.
6.. Holding your hand in the same position, inhale through the right nostril.
7.. Pause for a second.
8.. With the ring finger still holding the left nostril closed, bring thumb up to close the right nostril. Release the left nostril.
9.. Exhale through the left nostril.
You have finished one round of alternate nostril breathing. When you start, do 1-3 rounds. If you are feeling comfortable with this pace, gradually increase the number of rounds. Remember to never force your breath – gentleness and ease of breathing will give you far better results than forcefulness. When you finish the exercise, sit with your eyes closed for a few minutes and breathe normally. Observe your mind.
There are certain variations to the technique that you can try when you get used to the routine. If you breathe in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 8 and then exhale for a count of 8. As you progress, you can try to hold your breath for a count of 16, and then exhale in 8 counts. Do not hold your breath for a long count if you have a history of high blood pressure. Just do the exercise as it has been described, allow your blood pressure to stabilize and get to normal and then proceed to the more intense practice.

Benefits of Alternate Nostril Breathing

As with any exercise, you will get maximum benefits from this practice when you do it regularly. This is a great way to revitalize your system. So anytime during the day when you feel ‘low’, get to a quiet corner and do a few rounds of this to get your mood up! A few minutes of alternate breathing, gets you prepped up and calms your mind down to face an interview or an exam.
Regular practice of alternate nostril breath has also been found to improve brain function. It improves clarity and enhances focus, bringing in equal amounts of oxygen to both hemispheres of the brain. People who suffer from anxiety or are easily agitated, report that this kind of breathing helps them to naturally and easily calm their minds. No wonder the yogis used to say that regulating the breath helps to control the mind!

Perhaps the greatest benefit that this pranayama brings is the harmonizing of the two sides of our brain. Bringing our brain to its full use and potential could be revolutionary in our lives! Of course, breathing in through just one nostril can also be done to activate a specific brain hemisphere. Try this out for yourself – the next time you want to calm down and relax, try breathing in only through your left nostril and see what happens. Alternately, when you are driving or focusing on something, breathe in through only the right nostril for a minute and notice the difference.

This technique is excellent for cleansing the lungs. Just a five minute practice every morning, will get rid of the stale air loaded with impurities from the bottom of the lungs. Most of us do not use our whole lungs for breathing – we take shallow breaths, using only the top part of the lungs. This is why stale air that if full of toxins and impurities stays collected in the lower lungs. This technique also helps you sleep better – calming down your nervous system and slowing down your heart rate. If you have trouble falling asleep, try lying on your right side, and breathe in only through the left nostril.

So there you have it. One easy way to address many problems. Try it out for yourself, and do it for at least a week regularly to experience the benefits. All you have to gain is better energy flow throughout your body, more oxygen helping all of your systems to work right, and in the long run, protection from many illnesses – which means that you save money too! Don’t forget to tell us how it goes!

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Friday, September 2, 2011


Many years ago, when writers wrote about a world where machines would assist humans in daily life, it was called science fiction. As the years went by, and technology advanced, so many things that were fiction turned into fact. As recent as twenty years ago, cardiac operations were a big deal, a ‘serious’ operation, and you would not have believed it if someone had told you machines would be doing the job much better in a few years.

But this is now true, and H.G.Wells is probably saying ‘I told you so’. One of the latest approaches to cardiac surgery involves a recent innovation that uses robotic instrumentation to allow cardiothoracic surgeons to operate through a smaller opening for a minimally invasive surgery. It’s called the da Vinci Surgical System. 

For many heart patients, when medication and catheter-based treatments do not relieve the symptoms, surgery may be the only option for treatment. But just hearing about the procedures of traditional or open heart surgeries can make even the most stout-hearted among us to feel queasy. “First, your chest is cut open, then your breastbone is cracked open, then we reach in to your chest cavity…” you get the picture.

Thankfully, there have been major advances in surgical technology, which now brings to us minimally invasive surgery and unmanned surgery. Initially, the purpose of having a machine perform surgery was to facilitate remotely performed surgery in battlefields and other remote environments. But it was soon clear that the telesurgical robot was more useful for minimally invasive on-site surgery.

Robots as surgeons
Robotic surgery and research on this has been going on for some time. In 1988, the PROBOT was used to perform prostatic surgery. The ROBODOC was introduced in 1992 to ensure precise fittings in the thigh bone for hip replacement surgeries. These were the forefathers of the da Vinci Surgical System.

The da Vinci Surgical System provides surgeons and patients with the most effective, least invasive treatment alternative for even the most complex procedures, such as mitral valve repair. The best news for the patient who takes this option is that this process offers the potential for a better clinical outcome. Patients who choose this surgery have shorter recovery times than those who have open heart surgery.

How the da Vinci system works
In this process, instead of cutting open the chest, and parting the breastbone, a small working incision and three to five small incisions (ports) are made in the spaces between the ribs. The incisions are about the size of a fingertip. The surgical instruments (attached to the robotic arms) and one tiny camera are inserted through these ports. Motion sensors are attached to the robotic “wrist,” so the surgeon can control the movement and placement of the surgical instruments to perform the procedure.
The spirits of the sci-fi writers and scientific visionaries need to put the brakes on their celebrations though – the da Vinci still needs a surgeon to be in control of the robot. The system is an extremely sophisticated tool that enables the surgeon to perform the surgery with greater precision and control as well as minimal invasion on the body.

Apart from the advantage that the body does not need to take a severe trauma for the procedure, the da Vinci system also gives surgeons the option of performing the surgery on a ‘beating heart,’ in which case the patient is not placed on the heart-lung bypass machine (this is called“off-pump” surgery).

The Process
During the Robotic cardiac surgery procedure, the surgeon sits in a console to the left of the da Vinci console. The robotic arms are directly above the patient, and function as an extension of the surgeon’s hands, directed through the controls in the console.
A tiny camera attached to a robotic arm gives the surgeon a very detailed, 3D view of the operating space inside the chest. The robotic arms are very agile, and so the surgeon gets a greater range of motion than is possible with hand-manipulated moves in standard procedures.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery

  • Quicker return to normal activities: Rather than waiting several weeks to heal, patients can return to work or other activities much more quickly–usually within 10 days.
  • Shorter hospital stay:  Time spent in the hospital can sometimes be reduced by as much at 50 percent, compared to traditional procedures.
  • No splitting of the breastbone (“cracking the chest”): Keeping the breastbone intact reduces the chance for post-surgical complications and infection.
  • Smaller incisions: Depending upon the case, the operation may be performed through four to five fingertip-size incisions or through a 3- to 5-inch incision at the side of the chest. Traditional open-heart procedures demand a longer incision down the center of the chest.
  • Much less pain: Decreased destruction to tissue and muscle results in less pain. Tylenol or aspirin are usually enough to manage pain after some procedures.
  • Elimination of the heart-lung bypass machine: In most cases, avoiding the bypass machine decreases the risks for neurological complications and stroke.
  • Minimal blood loss and less need for transfusion
  • A reduced risk of infection
  • Small scarring: Instead of a long chest scar, only a few tiny scars or a small, 3- to 5-inch scar remains.

Robotic heart surgery in India
Doctors at the Chettinad Health City, Chennai have successfully performed a rare robotic heart surgery on a 23- year-old patient. Dr. R. Ravi Kumar, the Director of the Institute of Cardiovascular Disease at the hospital, said that the robotically assisted procedure involved replacing both the mitral and the aortal valve simultaneously. Although the procedure is quite new in India, Dr. Ravi Kumar was positive about the system being used for a variety of procedures.
Just like for any successful surgery, minimally invasive procedures also need well qualified, trained hands. Since the procedure is very different from operating through a large chest incision, it requires doctors to be trained in a different manner. Even highly experienced surgeons must devote dozens of hours to learning how to use the techniques and equipment for minimally invasive surgery.

There are already several surgeons in India who are well trained in robotic surgery. Since the procedure has only advantages to offer, it is sure to be increasingly in demand in the future. Remember to research as well as discuss all of your surgical options with your doctor if you need surgery.