23 June 2012
Chennai Hospital To Use Extreme Cold To Treat Patients With Arthritis, Spondylitis, Asthma And Even Skin Disorders
Imagine being in a room colder than the Antarctic for three minutes and stepping out healthier. This is how people with early stages of arthritis, post–operative trauma, chronic pain, spondylitis and even asthma and skin disorders could feel after undergoing Whole Body Cryotherapy, say doctors. Invented in Japan in 1978 and introduced in Europe in 1984, WBC is set to be introduced in a city hospital later this week.
The concept is simple. A patient clad in swimwear, for maximum skin exposure, steps into a cryo chamber cooled to –110°C and remains for three minutes. Once inside, the skin rapidly cools to 5°C, setting off its sensors. "The sensors start firing at 140 times a second against the normal 15 times a second. The sensory input is then sent to the spinal chord, where it works on the synapse. Receptors in the joints, muscles and autonomous nervous system then get modified," says Dr Ravi Subramaniam, an orthopaedic surgeon and director of Soundarapandian Bone and Joint Hospital where WBC units, imported from Germany, will be used. Modifications of the receptors over time will eliminate inflammation in that part, reducing pain.
The brain starts releasing endorphins, chemical compounds that boost energy levels, improve metabolism and blood circulation and reduce stress, when it begins receiving the modified impulse.
About 15–20 sessions of this threeminute therapy can help patients with rheumatoid arthritis. "It also reduces patients’ medicine intake up to nine times and hugely improves their mobility too," says Dr Subramaniam.
Severe arthritis requires a minimum of 30 sessions, each costing around 2,000, but treatment is painless and quick. It can even cure disorders like asthma, traditionally associated with cold temperatures. "The climatic cold is filled with moisture that worsens arthritis, but this cold is dry," says Dr Siva Murugan, an orthopaedician at the Soundarapandian Bone and Joint Hospital. But both specialists admit this treatment can never be a substitute for surgery.
Before entering the main chamber, patients spend 30 seconds in a pre–chamber cooled to –40°C "to acclimatise the body," says Dr Murugan. They are also made to cover their feet, hands, mouth, nose and ears with socks, gloves and other protective gear to avoid frost bite. Studies are on to see how WBC can be used to treat cancer.
TECH MASTERS: Dr Ravi Subramaniam (left), director of Soundarapandian Bone and Joint Hospital, with Dr Siva Murugan, orthopaedician