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Sympathetic ear

Meet Dr. H Ganapathy, who has treated over 10,000 patients suffering from giddiness


HE CAN rightly be called a man with a `passion for giddiness'. Dr. H Ganapathy has been specialising in neuro-otology, a branch of ENT that deals with problems involving the nerves of the inner ear, for the last 28 years.

A rank holder in surgery from the Madras Medical College, Dr. Ganapathy became the first in the city to opt for this specialisation way back in 1975. Since then he has treated more than 10,000 patients with giddiness and has done commendable research in the field. He is also a founder member of the Neuro-Otological and Equilibriometric Society of India.

Currently working as consultant at the Apollo Hospitals, Dr. Ganapathy feels there is a lack of awareness among the public on the subject, which often leads to its delayed diagnosis. He dispels some of the prevailing misconceptions about giddiness. Excerpts from an interview:

What is giddiness?

It is a sensation of movement perceived by the brain. It originates in the inner ear. However, when people feel giddy they tend to consult a neurologist or cardiologist rather than an ENT surgeon. About 75 per cent of the patients coming to me are referred by other doctors. This is because they associate the symptom with the organ from which it originates. They fear it has got to do something with their head or heart.

What are the causes?

A person feels giddy when an imbalance occurs to the structures responsible for maintaining the balance inside the inner ear. This can happen if the patient suffers from head injuries, viral infection, infection in the ear or migraine. If left unattended, it can result in psychological problems.

How do you diagnose it?

Using an Electronystagmograh. It records giddiness and identifies its area of origin.

What are the remedial measures?

Our treatment lays less emphasis on drugs and more on exercises such as vestibular (balance) rehabilitation therapy, which includes putting the patient in a rocking chair, swing, asking him to walk on rails and rotation of the body.

The idea is to induce giddiness in patients so that the brain stops reacting to the phenomenon in a while. Even acute giddiness can be resolved in three weeks time. Such patients should also refrain from taking food that has excessive salt, sugar and fat as these are substances that can induce giddiness.

You single handedly managed the neuro-otological clinic in the Madras Medical College for nearly 20 years. Even now the clinic continues to be a one-man enterprise. Why is it that there aren't many takers for this subject?

There is a general impression that neuro-otology is boring. Besides, it is not as lucrative as other branches.

SANGEETH KURIAN

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