Five notable cases from twenty-four hours in the Indian healthcare system

*Originally posted on our blog on October, 15 2015

Last week, we held our first-ever Live Event on Figure 1. During the twenty-four hour event, the Apollo Group’s flagship hospital in Chennai, India, shared 24 medical cases. The cases highlighted medical conditions in India and showed how Indian healthcare professionals treat them in real time.

Here are five notable cases from the Live Event that demonstrate the medical expertise that Apollo Hospitals provides to 100 million people each year, as well as the unique challenges of delivering high-quality healthcare in India.

Case One: Tuberculosis
India has the highest rate of tuberculosis (TB) in the world, according to the World Health Organization, with an estimated 2 million cases annually. Here, a 61-year-old female was experiencing abdominal pain, anorexia, and weight loss. The diagnosis unfolded in three stages. First, her symptoms included abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. A CT scan showed a fluid-filled cavity within the abdominal wall. That led to surgery, during which a biopsy of the area revealed TB.

Case Two: Water purification
Water quality is an issue in India, and for no one more than patients with compromised immune systems. In 2012, The Times of India reported that the water in parts of Chennai was “so contaminated that drinking it straight from the tap could be lethal.” To address this, the industrial purification system on the roof of the Apollo Hospital in Chennai cleans and filters tap water. The resulting reverse-osmosis filtered water is so pure that even bone-marrow transplant patients — those most vulnerable to infection — can safely drink it.

Case Three: Himalayan monks
Not all of the Apollo Chennai’s patients come in to the hospital. Some are so far away, and in such remote areas, that creative approaches to healthcare are required. In this case, an outbreak of a scalp infection among children in a distant monastery was first seen via telemedicine. To make a proper diagnosis, a sample of scrapings from the village in the Himalayas had to be sent more than 1,500 miles via courier. The trip to the village is long and treacherous, so treating patients in a timely manner with telemedicine is important.

Case Four: Liver transplant
Viral hepatitis is a major public health issue in India, and it can lead to liver failure. It is estimated that 80% of liver failures in India are caused by either Hepatitis B (spread through infected bodily fluids) or Hepatitis E (spread through fecal contamination), whereas in developed countries only 20% of liver failures are caused by these viruses. Apollo Hospital in Chennai has established itself as a regional leader in liver transplants. Here a liver transplant is being performed, one of the more than 400 the hospital has done.

Case Five: The Cyberknife
The Cyberknife Robotic RadioSurgery System at Apollo Hospital in Chennai is the most sophisticated instrument of its kind in the Asia-Pacific region. It enables doctors to target an area very precisely, permitting very high doses of radiation to be tolerated. This highly localized therapy allows treatment of cancers in surgically inaccessible locations and gives patients a new treatment option. Since the Cyberknife’s introduction at the Apollo in 2009, it has been used in over 1,000 cases.