Obesity treatment with intragastric balloon system in Poland

Obesity is a global problem

Intragastric balloons - BIB System, Orbera or Spaz - an effective therapy of weight reduction in obesity.

Obesity is a global problem

Obesity is becoming an increasing problem of today's world.  Formerly a sign of status, today obesity seriously threatens the well-being of developed countries. Paradoxically, there are more obese than undernourished people in the world today, according to data of the International Federation of Red Cross Associations for every 1.5 billion obese people there were around 925 million undernourished, and the number is still increasing.

Obesity becomes a problematic issue for more and more highly developed countries, in Europe only it affects 22% of women and 15% of men. The number of the obese is growing fast - only in France it has doubled in the past six years. WHO is alarming that we are threatened with an epidemics and calls obesity a "global disease of the 21st century". The inglorious palm of leadership among countries with the largest number of the obese belongs to America: at present 35.7% of adults and 17% of children between 2 and 17 years old suffer from clinical obesity (Trust for America's Health).

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Poland is no exception, I am afraid.  According to the latest GUS data ("Public health and population policy" report from 2012), there are 24% obese women and 21% of obese men.  It is significantly more than in 2000, when 19.9% of women and 15.7% of men were diagnosed with the condition. Our children are also increasingly becoming bigger: studies conducted by the Centre for Children's Health and Fitness Promotion indicated that nearly one in five children in Poland is struggling with excessive weight. Professor  Ewa Pańkowska from the Institute of Mother and Child emphasizes that the scale of the problem in Polish schools is nearing that in American ones: in the USA over 20% of children are overweight or obese.

In the case of many people the only way to lose weight is to undergo surgery. 

As the problem is becoming more and more dangerous and many people do not respond well to traditional treatment of obesity (e.g. changing eating habits, increasing physical activity), intragastric procedures reducing the area of the stomach and the amount of food consumed are becoming increasingly popular.  The solution may be a method alternative to surgical operations - an increasingly popular procedure of treating obesity with the use of a gastric balloon (BIB gastric balloon System, Spaz and Orberá ) .

What is the intragastric balloon procedure?

The BIB System (BioEnterics Intragastric Balloon) obesity treatment was first applied in America at the end of 1990s. A silicone balloon is placed inside the stomach and then filled with sterile saline.   The balloon reduces body weight by significantly reducing the amount of food intake: it stretches stomach walls and sends a signal to the brain that inhibits the feeling of hunger. The balloon remains in the body for up to six months, and then is removed,  however by that time the patient has already developed proper eating behaviour and habits, which makes it much easier for them to maintain their new weight .

BIB System balloon inside the stomach

The procedure takes 10-20 minutes and is performed under general anaesthesia.  Prior to implantation, the patient undergoes detailed assessment examinations.  Balloon is placed inside the stomach via a camera that enters through the mouth and into the stomach. After the treatment is completed it is removed the same way.  Patients can leave the hospital immediately after the implantation, however they can experience nausea, diarrhoea or vomiting for the next 2-3 days.  These reactions are normal for the body, which tries to dispose of foreign matter.

BIB System in Poland - clinics and prices

As the non-surgical BIB System obesity treatment is becoming increasingly popular, more and more facilities introduce this means of therapy into their list of offered procedures.  At a Pulsmed Private Hospital in ‎‎‎Łódź, the entire cost of BIB System treatment performed by Dr Zbigniew Kowalczyk comes up to PLN 7 500.  The price includes assessment examinations, specialist tests, balloon implantation, doctor consultations, six month care and removal of the balloon.

At the Kraków specialist medical offices the cost of the procedure is similar. Dr Piotr Walczak at the Gabinet Endoskopii Przewodu Pokarmowego will charge PLN 7500 for the BIB System treatment, and the Swarzędz NZOZ Centrum Medycyny Małoinwazyjnej – Endoskopia offers the same price as well.  Lublin is another city offering similar prices, the cost of treatment performed by Dr Wit Cezary Danilkiewicz, MD, PhD at the NZOZ Gastromed is PLN 6950.

BIB System intragastric balloo

At the Warsaw Medicover Hospital, Dr Wojciech Kosmala charges much more: the implantation of the balloon inside the stomach costs PLN 6900, however the patient must also pay for its removal (the prices start with PLN 950), which comes up to a combined cost of approximately PLN 8000).  An exceptionally high cost of balloon implantation is offered by the Artplastica Clinic in Szczecin: Dr Jacek Butkiewicz offers the entire course of treatment for the cost of PLN 8500-9000. The BIB System procedures are also performed at lower prices, Dr Hieronim Siwczyński, MD, PhD carries out the treatment for PLN 6500. Dr Michał Śniegowski from the Warsaw Damian Centre also offers the entire treatment for the same cost.

Cost of procedures all over the world

Polish facilities offering BIB System treatments have been noting an increasing number of foreign patients interested in this procedure. The reason for this is simple: the cost of procedures in Poland is much lower, but the standards are equally high.

Weight loss chart for people using the intragastric balloon

According to German Medicine Net website, intragastric balloon treatments in Germany start with €4000, but in fact, you can find clinics offering much lower prices.  For example, Dr Rudolf Sebastian from PraxisKlinik offers the procedure for €2750. However, in Great Britain prices are very high: according to http://cliniccompare.co.uk, the cost of treatment with an intragastric balloon ranges between ₤3000 and ₤5000, generally though, the cost is rather higher than lower.  In Gateway Health, Lincoln, the price of the procedure ranges between ₤4200 and ₤4900, and Dr Siba Senapati (The Highfield Hospital in Rochdale) also performs the treatment for ₤4100 and up. The least expensive place to get the BIB System treatment is International Surgery Group in Brentwood, with prices starting from ₤3000. Treatment in Spain will confront you with a similar cost: at the Mediterranean Health Care in Alicante, intragastric balloon treatment will cost around €5000.

In the USA the BIB system has not yet been approved for marketing by the FDA. The FDA representative states that the procedure has no medical or economical grounding. Dr Robin Blackstone, the president of the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery, participating in the balloon's clinical tests in the USA thinks that obese patients can choose from many other weight loss methods.  A few known obesity treating clinics, which offer BIB System procedures are located in Canada. According to Daily Mail many obese Americans take this direction to undergo the intragastric balloon procedure and shed excessive weight.   The procedures are carried out by EcuMedical Resources International in Windsor, Slimband and Cleveland Clinic Canada in Toronto, The Surgical Weight Loss Center in Mississauga, or False Creek Healthcare Center in Vancouver. Canadian clinics offer prices ranging between CAD 6000 and 8000. The procedure is still much more expensive than in Poland, therefore an increasing number of obese Americans decide to get the intragastric balloon in Europe.

BIB System - Poland is the cheapest

Obesity treatment in Poland with the use of intragastric balloon can even be 60-70% cheaper than in British and German clinics.

Analysing the prices of intragastric balloon systems in Poland and abroad, it is hardly a surprise that Polish bariatrics clinics and medical centres offering the procedure are increasingly becoming popular among foreign patients.  According to Free-Press-Release website, an intragastric balloon treatment in Poland can even be up to 70% cheaper than in British and Irish clinics. Similar information is provided by http://discoverpl.polacy.co.uk website.

It is worth to add that British NHS reimburses intragastric balloon treatment only in cases of severe clinical obesity  The fact that a number of people wishing to treat obesity with intragastric balloons is steadily growing is not only a result of obesity affecting more and more people, but also a growing awareness that obesity is a serious, and life-threatening disease.

Gastric balloon for obesity management
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It not without significance that since 2010 there has been a growing emphasis placed by government organizations to advertise Polish medical services abroad. Medical Tourism Chamber of Commerce is campaigning "Treatment in Poland" to interest foreign patients in Polish medical services. In addition, there are plans to introduce new services - insurance in medical tourism - to the Polish insurance offer, which would further encourage foreign patients to come to Poland for treatment. And it is worth fighting for: according to the data of Medical Tourism Chamber of Commerce in Poland, every year 300 to 350 thousand of foreign patients come to our country for treatment, and this number is estimated to double in the next five years.  Although, the patients who come to Poland to treat obesity are only a small percentage of this number, a growing number of excellent clinics and the interest the method is evoking let us think that with time it will change for the better.

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