Very few specialties have grown so enormously in the past few decades as the specialty of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology, or ENT to the common man. From just being a “tonsil and cough and cold specialist”, the field has grown enormously in the last few years bringing cutting edge technology to medicine and finding miraculous cures for serious, hitherto untreatable conditions. The new generation of ENT surgeons has conquered new frontiers in the management of disease, often going where even the bravest fear to tread.
It is not often that a surgeon-in-training is taught again and again that a malady is untreatable, and yet, just a few years later, the cure appears not as a speck of light in the horizon, but as a simmering sea of knowledge! The most apt example of this is the quest for the cure of deafness, which has vexed scientists for long. “You have nerve deafness” they would say, with a sad shake of the head, “Nothing can be done”. These days, most forms of deafness could be corrected and if done early enough, there is none who can tell the difference between a “deaf” person and a normally hearing peer. Cochlear implants, Bone anchored hearing aids, middle ear implants, implantable hearing aids aren’t just fancy terms, but real technology for real people with proven benefit and cost-effectiveness. Kerala also has one of India’s largest cochlear implant centers, proof that advanced technology is here to stay.
Treatment of allergy and sinusitis has reached such levels of excellence that no one need suffer from running noses, blocked airways and foul breath. While very few still do require surgery, most of these people can be managed medically and with long-term good results. Even surgery is a far cry from what it was earlier- with endoscopes and powered instrumentation, most patients can return back to work the next day, a boon in today’s busy life. Gone are the days when surgery meant pain, rest and the dreadful misery of having to tolerate nasal packs for days!
Many people suffer from voice disorders and modern Voice Labs are equipped with extraordinary instruments to look at your vocal cords in slow motion, and precisely define treatment methods. Surgery for voice disorders or phonomicrosurgery is a specialty by itself and is blooming all over the country. Who once knew that snoring, far from being a pickwickian anecdote, is a serious illness with far-reaching effects on health and well-being, like hypertension and sudden death? Modern diagnostic methods can study snoring and its effect on a person with great accuracy. Doctors can then find out ways in which it can be effectively treated.aring aids has been seen with so much taboo and that is tragic, because that happens to be the first step towards normalcy that a young child with a hearing problem can take. By early fitting of hearing aids and with a new kind of therapy that focuses on hearing as the primary modality, called Auditory-verbal habilitation, most children can learn to speak normally and go to normal school and just be normal children. A small obstacle in this story is that there are very few teachers trained in auditory verbal habilitation and though we have three, it is difficult to find more!
What did you used to do when you felt giddy? Gone to the doctor and popped many pills, vomited at all times and went to bed for days? Not now, specialist doctors in the field of Otoneurology, or the science of the nerves of the inner ear and brain, treats these illnesses that have vexed many, with exercises, maneuvers and precise surgery of the inner ear. The complex inner ear, arguably the most sophisticated nerve sense of man, has now been explored by the good doctor, who with characteristic aplomb, sets thing right quicker and better than it has ever been.
ENT surgeons have even ventured into the skull base, known as the most inaccessible part of the human body and have also developed micro surgical techniques to treat cancer of the head and neck and repair of complex defects, hitherto unmanageable. The real evidence of this dynamic new specialty is the growing number of young bright students opting for this as a sound future, an unthinkable thought just a few years ago. While we may gloat at these new and exciting achievements, we must not forget our forefathers, pioneers in medicine whose farsightedness and quest for knowledge has enabled us to reach great heights. Let us salute the spirit of these great men, like Dr. B.C. Roy, who are the giants on whose shoulders we stand, so that we can see far, not because we are tall by ourselves. On this doctor’s day, it is a fitting tribute to dedicate our successes to the great doctors of yesterday.