March 11, 2008

Chennai attracting hundreds of childless couples

Offering cost-effective and high-tech fertility treatment, this southern metropolis is now attracting hundreds of childless couples from abroad, giving a new thrust to medical tourism.

Hospitals here have treated more than a thousand couples from abroad - the US, the UK, Canada, the Gulf, the Far East and neighbouring countries - in the last couple of years and the numbers are growing.

Latest technology, expertise of doctors and high success rate coupled with comparatively cheaper rates have put the city on the top in the list of medical tourists, doctors say.

Dr Kamala Selvaraj of GG Fertility Research Centre here says that personalised care is also a major factor contributing to the trend.

"In foreign countries, patients spend more time filling up forms. But here we meet the patients, do the tests, counsel and treat them."

Selvaraj says she has treated 244 patients from abroad in 2004 and that number has increased to 350 in 2007.

As much as 25 per cent of patients of Dr Sarat Battina, fertility specialist at Apollo Hospital, comprises foreigners this year, an increase from 15 per cent last year.

Claiming that she handles about 2,500 patients in a year, Battina echoes the cost-effectiveness of treatment here.

"An in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) that costs 8,000 to 10,000 USD in the West costs only 2,500 USD in Chennai... Moreover, the success rate (40 to 70 per cent) is comparable to international standards.

According to doctors here, they adopt latest treatment techniques and perform it as per international standards.

Micromanipulators are used for intra-cytoplasmic sperm injection (ICSI) in which doctors collect a single live sperm and inject it directly into the cytoplasm of the mother's egg.

FISH (Fluroescent In Situ Hybridisation), a new genetic study technique that detects the presence or absence of specific DNA sequences on chromosomes, is also used.

The treatment period varies from one to four months.

"Once the patient becomes pregnant and the embryo shows signs of normal growth, she goes back to her home country and the delivery takes places there. We keep in touch with the patient through emails," says Dr.Battia.

Vandana Ram, an Indian settled in the US, who conceived after intra-uterine insemination (IUI) in Chennai, was all praise for the GG Research Centre.

"I waited for nine years, taking fertility drugs. In the US, one gets to consult the doctor only once in three months. Here, the doctor advised IUI which costs only Rs 1,000. I got pregnant after the second trial."

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