Cataract is the leading cause of preventable blindness in India, affecting 4 million people each year. Cataract can be easily treated by surgery. While the surgical procedure and technology is highly mature, accessibility to quality surgical facilities remains a huge problem. More than 2 million people are awaiting cataract surgery, with majority living in rural areas. Conducting surgeries in make-shift facilities is banned by the Government, citing need for aseptic and sterile surgical environment.
Hence, there is a pressing need for a reliable and effective technology solution for performing safe and sterile cataract surgery in remote locations.
To address the problem of accessibility to cataract surgery, HTIC has developed MESU, a self-contained, safe and sterile surgical facility that can travel to remote locations and perform cataract surgery on-site. This first-of-its-kind technology and delivery model in the country consists of several engineering innovations to meet safety and sterility requirements while operating in rural setting. The MESU consists of two custom built vehicles, (a) the Preparatory Vehicle, that houses a prep-room and a changing room, and (b) the Surgical Vehicle, that has an operating theatre, a scrub and a sterilisation room. The two vehicles travel independently and are connected by a retractable vestibule on-site, thereby recreating the setup otherwise available only in a hospital. On-board subsystems provide uninterrupted electrical power, sterile air supply, clean water, a stable mechanical platform, and dedicated instrumentation for continuous monitoring, thereby making the unit self-sufficient.
486 surgeries were conducted in the pilot phase of MESU in Tamil Nadu. A systematic follow-up of patients indicated no postoperative complications, thus demonstrating clinical feasibility and viability. Following the successful pilot, MESU was given approval by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India, to continue operations. An independent assessment report by the ministry analysed the cost effectiveness and efficiency of MESU and found it to be ready for scaling up.
The Mobile Eye Surgical Unit (MESU), developed by HTIC in 2011, was handed over to Sankara Nethralaya in 2012. After the pilot stage was successfully completed with no post-operative complications, the MESU has been extensively used by Sankara Nethralaya, and a total of 840 cataract surgeries were performed till March 2014. From April 2014 to March 2015 the MESU was used to conduct 7 surgical camps, in which nearly 3700 subjects were screened and 541 surgeries were performed. By March 2020, over 16000+ surgeries have been performed with more than 122+ surgical camps.