Friends' donation puts voice clinic in the picture

From left: Vikram Dhar, Annie Elias, Alistair Balfour, the Lord Mayor of Canterbury Cllr Terry Westgate and Catriona Irvine, chairman of the League of Friends with the new stroboscope

Published on 18 December 2019

A high-tech device that gives clinicians the chance to see close-up images and video of patients’ vocal cords is already proving a potential lifesaver.

The £73,000 digital stroboscope was donated by the League of Friends of Kent and Canterbury Hospital and is used in the voice clinic run by the Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) team.

And thanks to the detailed view offered by the machine, staff were able to see subtle changes in a patient’s throat that suggested cancer. Their diagnosis was confirmed after a biopsy, but the disease was at the earliest stage and the patient should make a full recovery.

Consultant Vikram Dhar said: “Without the stroboscope we would have been relying on trying to look into someone’s throat through a small tube, and it simply wouldn’t be possible to see the level of detail we need.

“But thanks to the stroboscope we saw irregularities and were able to carry out more investigations, and the result was that we were able to diagnose the cancer at a very early and treatable stage.

“The device allows us to see someone’s vocal cords moving as they speak and even sing, and thanks to our joint voice clinic with a speech and language therapist we can offer them the treatment or therapy they need.”

The clinic was set up in 1992 following an initial donation of an old-style stroboscope by the League of Friends, and is run with the combined expertise of East Kent Hospital Trust’s consultant ENT surgeons and speech and language therapists from Kent Community Health Trust. Although upgrades had been purchased over the years, the League’s donation means the staff can use the latest technology with their patients.

The charity’s trustees unanimously backed the upgrade, and it received the backing of members at a central meeting. They were invited to a demonstration of the device with Mr Dhar, fellow consultant Alistair Balfour and speech and language therapist Annie Elias. It was also attended by the Lord Mayor of Canterbury, Cllr Terry Westgate.

League chairman Catriona Irvine said: “We were all delighted to be able to keep improving the clinic we helped to set up.

“It’s clear that the digital stroboscope will have huge benefits for patients and it was wonderful to be able to see it in action.”