Orthopaedic surgeon Mayil Vahanan Natarajan has taken the technology of custom-made prostheses across the country

In 1996, when Keshava Raghunathan was 12, he was diagnosed with a bone tumour.

“My parents were terrified that I would lose my leg. The surgeon we consulted, asked us to see Dr. Mayil Vahanan Natarajan,” he said.

The first thing eminent orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Natarajan said, according to Mr. Raghunathan, was, “This boy can walk.” And, after a limb salvage surgery using a custom-made prostheses, Mr. Raghunathan had 15 glorious years of walking, running, trekking and mountain-climbing. “It is only because I have grown taller that I now need a surgery again,” he said.

Mr. Raghunathan was one of several patients who spoke at a ceremony held to mark Dr. Natarajan’s completion of 2,000 limb salvage surgeries using custom mega prostheses, held on Saturday.

Eleven-year-old Subbaiah M. Nuchimanyanda, another patient, who underwent the surgery in 2009, said he was now writing a book.

“When I started out as a young doctor 25 years ago, we would come across case after case of patients with malignant bone tumours at the general hospital or Cancer Institute, Adyar. Back then, the only option was amputation of the limb, which would leave both patients and their families shattered. Also, imported prostheses were very expensive. It made me determined to come up with an alternative,” Dr. Natarajan said.

And thus, in 1988, began an indigenous design-and-manufacturing process for the development of custom-made prostheses. These, since they did not involve amputation and were considerably cheaper than the imported ones, soon became popular. “After 10 years of studying the effects on patients, I took the technology across the country, encouraging doctors to use it, and training them,” Dr. Natarajan said.

About 15 States have now adopted this methodology and the limbs of thousands of patients have been saved thanks to them, he said.

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