4 Reasons Why The Czechs Are Medical Pioneers

Golden Czech Hands And Clever Czech Heads

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Dallas Wiens, 25, was severely injured when his head touched a high-voltage electrical wire while working inside a cherry picker.

Zlaté české ručičky a chytré české hlavičky is an old Czech proverb, meaning “golden Czech hands and clever Czech heads.” In 2011, a team of surgeons gathered around an operating table in Boston, Massachusetts to perform the nation’s first (and world’s third) full facial transplant. Lead by renowned plastic surgeon, Dr. Bohdan Pomahac, the patient’s nose, palate, upper lip, and facial skin, muscles, and nerves was successfully replaced with those of a deceased donor. Born in former Czechoslovakia, Dr. Pomahac’s groundbreaking achievements in plastic surgery are celebrated universally and abroad. As for the rest of the medical community, the newly named, “Czechia”, is setting the bar extra high when it comes to performance and innovation.

In a country known more for its medieval castles, hockey, and of course, beer, the Czechs are just as serious about their medical contributions. Check out 4 ways the Czechs are ahead of the game:  

1. The “Heart” Of Europe

Faithfully beating more than 100,000 times a day, the heart is unquestionably one of our most vital organs. Landlocked between Germany, Austria, Poland and Slovakia, the Czech Republic is often referred to as “The Heart of Europe”

Appropriately, the Czechs are world leaders in cardiac surgery; performing the country’s first successful heart transplant in 1984. Recognized for their excellent system of healthcare for those suffering from acute coronary symptoms- especially the treatment and prevention of heart attacks- the Czech Republic is also home to state-of-the-art cardiovascular centers as well as some of the world’s top cardiac specialists.

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Da Vinci Xi. The widely universal word “robot” was first coined by Czech brother Karel and Josef Čapek.

Since 2005, Prague’s Na Homolce hospital has been using robotic technology to assist in various surgeries, including cardiac. In 2016, they added a new, upgraded member to their surgical team. His name? Da Vinci Xi. Controlled by a human surgeon, Da Vinci Xi’s mechanical arms offer precision that would not otherwise be possible.

2. Second Chances 

In 1932, the Czech Republic became the first country in the world to recognize plastic surgery as an independent branch of medicine. Many Czech surgeons, including Dr. Pomahač, have received international acclaim; and their success is no accident. After a minimum of 6 years at an accredited university, medical students must pass a rigorous series of exams followed by a two years residency with an experienced practitioner. It can be nearly a decade before they ever perform an operation.

While working at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Dr. Pomahač became increasingly interested in the subject of face transplants. In 2009, the first partial face transplant was successfully completed in France. Four years later, Dr. Pomahač and his surgical team performed a 17-hour operation to reconstruct the severely disfigured face of James Maki, age 59. In 2011, Dr. Pomahač led a team of 30 physicians, nurses and anesthesiologists for more than 15 hours to complete the first full transplant in the USA (see photo above).

3. Fighting Infertility

Since 1978, nearly 5 million babies have been born thanks to infertility treatment- specifically IVF. In
1984, the Czech Republic (then Czechoslovakia) became one of the first countries to pioneer In Vitro Fertilization and facilitate a successful birth.

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As of 2017, the Czech Republic is home to over 30 fertility clinics and centers.

According to NHS, 1 in 7 couples will have difficulty conceiving. Determined to help millions of men and women realize their dream of starting a family, the Czechs continue to invest a fortune in comprehensive IVF centers and extensive reproduction procedures. Today, they rank among the highest IVF success rates; 70 % in cases involving donated eggs. Czech legislation also plays a critical role in the rapidly growing field. It permits anonymous donation and the option to choose the physical characteristics of the donated egg or sperm in order to prevent serious genetic diseases.

As a result, the Czech Republic attracts thousands of couples from around the world coming for “IVF Holidays”. Significantly cheaper than treatment in the United States or the UK, IVF prices can start as low as 2500 Euros and egg donation from 3800 Euros. The Czechs offer affordable options without compromising safety and quality.

4. In Utero 

Approximately 1 in every 5,000 women is born without a uterus, cervix, and upper vaginal canal. The rarely-discussed, devastating syndrome, MRKH, makes it impossible to carry a fetus to term.

Historically, women with MRKH have had very few options, one of which being a uterus transplant from a live donor. In 2016, Czech doctors from the Prague-based Institute of Clinical and Experimental Medicine (IKEM) performed the sixth of now thirteen worldwide uterus transplants. Czech experts say that the next step is transplanting from dead donors. For thousands of women, this means the opportunity to carry and give birth.

Central Europe: The New Heart Of Cosmetic Dentistry

Patients from the US, UK and Western Europe are packing their bags and heading to Central Europe for cheap, quick and quality dental work.

Creating The Perfect Smile

Cosmetic dentistry has quickly become the fastest growing field in the dental industry, as well as the medical tourism market. In the past, dentistry has largely focused on prevention and restorative problem-solving, and while it still does, the advent of cosmetic dentistry has provided additional elective treatments to the everyday patient in search of the healthiest and most beautiful smile -the perfect smile.  

There is no shortage of treatments to select from. Patients are opting for everything from teeth whitening procedures to composite bonding, porcelain and composite veneers, crowns, bridgework, dental implants, inlays and onlays. For a complete list of treatments, visit our full cosmetic dentistry treatment guide.

While cosmetic dentistry is on the raise, prices are still considerably high in the US, UK and parts of Western Europe. UK prices for private dentistry are notoriously steep, and finding a practice that accepts NHS can be time consuming and nearly impossible in some cases. Even with coverage, patients are often hit with hefty additional charges, making it more than the cost for a similar treatment abroad. In the US, only the most basic dental care is covered by health insurance plans, leaving more than 150 million Americans without dental coverage.

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Putting Central Europe On The Map

In recent years, Central European countries have capitalized on cosmetic dentistry, catering to the medical tourism population. Global leaders, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland have made considerable investments in ultra-modern, state-of-the art clinics, especially in their capital cities, to attract patients. As a result, this has created a highly competitive industry, ensuring that top-notch service and the latest technology and equipment are of the foremost priority. Many dentists are also trained internationally and a proficient level of english is absolutely necessary for both dentists and their staff.

To no surprise, medical tourists are flocking to these countries by the thousands, taking advantage of the high standards of quality, convenient, low cost flights, great value and opportunity to visit one of Europe’s most adored cities.

Savings Worth Travelling For 

Patients are saving anywhere between 50% to upwards of 75% by packing their bags and travelling to Central Europe. In Hungary, which boasts more dentists per capita than any other country, patients may only pay £329/£379/ $429 for a single crown. In the UKthis could cost closer to £800/ €922 /$1045.

Similarly, and the shortest flight from the UK (1 hour and 45 minutes), lies the Czech Republic- the literal heart of Europe, and epicenter of cosmetic dentistry. It’s capital city, Prague, bursts at the seams with history and culture as well as cosmetic clinics. For patients seeking porcelain or composite veneers, prices may be as low as £247/€297/$322.

Uk prices average north of £600/692/$783. Cost of flight and two nights accommodation in Prague’s city centre totals less than £200/€230/$261 and wait times are typically low- some less than a week. The Czech Republic is also held to some of the most rigorous health regulations and accreditation requirements in Europe.

Leave Relaxed- And With A New Smile 

Into the bargain, Central Europe is home many of Europe’s most beautiful cities, Prague and others, ranking among the world’s TOP 50 cities on the Numbeo’s quality of life index. This list is largely influenced by the quality and affordability of healthcare, as well as safety and cost of living. 

Cosmetic dentistry, like medical tourism, has emerged and grown out of demand and necessity. Patients are finally looking outside of the box (and away from their local providers), and finding affordable, quality answers in Central Europe. Not only will your wallet be satisfied, but dental travel fulfills the dream of a perfect smile, while giving each patient some well deserved R&R and the remarkable opportunity to explore a new city and country.

John and Marie’s Heartening Journey Through IVF

We never thought it would happen to us. Infertility was “other couple’s problem”-not ours. John and I were in our early thirties, fit, active with absolutely no health problems. We were career driven and had spent the better part of our twenties working hard to achieve some kind of financial security in order to start a family. Yet, after nearly a year and a half of trying to conceive, we had nothing to show besides our sheer disappointment.

Dreams Of Starting A Family

Growing up in a family of five children, I had always pictured myself as the modern day mum with a gaggle of screaming child running around the house, food and paint splattered on the walls and ceiling. John (35) and I (34) met in law school and one of the things that helped solidify our relationship, and later our marriage, was the shared dream of having a big family. John, like myself, came from a large family (the oldest of four boys) and becoming a father had always felt like part of his destiny. We were used to working hard at school and in our firms, but starting a family had always seemed like something that would come easy, and naturally when the time was right. Neither of us could have imagined that infertility would soon become one of the most challenging, exhausting, yet rewarding journeys of our life.

Our infertility journey began in Cardiff, Wales, were John and I lived and worked at the time. We first visited our general practitioner and he recommended we visit a fertility specialist in town and begin discussing our options. John and I knew from the start that we might not be able to rely upon our national healthcare system, NHS, to help fund our treatment. One year prior, friends of ours (both 34 at the time) were approved for IVF treatment under NHS, but were only covered for two full cycles and placed on an 8 month waiting list due to a lack of approved Welsh clinics. Even for women under the age of 35, it may take up to 3-4, sometimes 5-6 full cycles of IVF until successful. After two unsuccessful cycles they ended up seeking treatment from a private clinic in London, where each round cost north of £6,000, and this did not include the initial consultation, necessary STD testing or hormone stimulation medication.

The NHS state that around 32.2% of IVF treatments for women aged 35 or under result in live births, this percentage declines with the age of the woman being treated, by the time a woman is 44 there is just a 1.9% chance of success.

Eventually John and I were approved under NHS and put on a 6 month waiting list. In the meantime, I joined numerous online forums, investigated clinics, and read every infertility book I could get my hands on. It was amazing how quickly my life became consumed with the topic of infertility. John used to tease me about the ridiculous amount of knowledge I had about IVF, even before our first treatment, but I think we both knew my information obsession was a distraction from my fear of maybe never becoming a mother.

Thinking About Starting IVF? Click Here For Your Full IVF Treatment Guide

We we finally began our first treatment cycle at a clinic in Wales where our physician explained that the case of our infertility was due to contributing factors- from both John and myself. For women, with each passing year of ovulation the number and quality of available eggs diminish. By age 30, the chances of having a baby begins to decrease by 3-5% each year. After age 40, fertility reduces to an even greater extent. After a semen analysis, it was also revealed that John had a below average sperm count- likely due to environmental factors such as “gender-bending” chemicals and or other lifestyle influences.

We proceeded with the first cycle, and our physician was able to extract several healthy embryo to be fertilized and transferred. At the time, and according to other IVF patients I’d spoken with, it’s common to go into your first cycle with an “all-or-nothing” mentality. Any fertility specialist worth their salt will tell you that 3 or more full IVF cycles may be required before becoming pregnant, but this is easy to forget when you’re in the physical, emotional midst of it all.

When the cycle was complete, John and I waited the necessary two weeks before taking an at home pregnancy test. The results? Negative.

If At First You Don’t Succeed

I was crushed, but John encouraged me to stay positive and that we’d keep trying. Typically after the first cycle it is possible to begin a second cycle after one or two complete menstrual cycles, however, with the long wait times we knew that time was not in our favor be staying in the UK. That is when I hopped back on the web and started to do some research. It was time for a new plan.

Within days I had posted on every IVF discussion board I could find, joined online support groups and exchanged dozens of emails with other patients in search of a better solution. To my surprise, an overwhelming majority recommended I look at clinics abroad. I was not convinced. Surely people were going abroad for lower prices, but didn’t this mean quality would suffer? Luckily many other former patients (many of which are now happy parents) had this same concern in the beginning. A woman named Ava from Germany, who became an IVF pen pal of sorts, wrote me the following:

“Don’t feel alone Marie, my husband and I had the same worries about quality and the state of the clinics abroad. We needed something affordable, but also with high standards and success rates. To help ensure that we find a trustworthy clinic we began working with a medical travel facilitator. This changed everything. We were able to compare quotes, explore each clinic and their accreditations, speak with our physician directly and in addition, all of our travel and accommodation was arranged for us. It helped eliminate a lot of stress during the process and we finally felt like we had someone on our side.”

Still hesitant, I didn’t see the harm in reaching out to a medical travel facilitator myself. It didn’t take long until I started to see why Ava was so keen on her discovery. I was immediately provided with quotes, clinic profiles, step-by-step treatment guides, booking dates and travel options. It was full-service, and exactly what any (already stressed and mentally drained) IVF couple could ask for. John was on board and in 3 weeks we were on our first trip to Prague, Czech Republic.

Setting Our Sights Abroad

As soon as we arrived we were greeted at the airport by our medical travel representative. After being escorted to our hotel to check in, John and I had our initial consultation at a state-of-the-art clinic, lasting about 90 minutes. Before leaving Wales, we’d been prepped on what medical documents to bring from our previous IVF treatment, so everything was prepared. Our physician discussed the treatment plan with us in detail, completed the standard testing and administered my hormone stimulating medication. At this time some couples chose to travel home and divide their treatment into two trips, but after the strain John and I’s relationship had been under the past few months, and with the help of our full-service facilitator, we decided to turn this IVF cycle into a mini-holiday.

For about 6 days we enjoyed Prague’s stunning views, cobblestone streets and old world charm, relaxing in our hotel and finally spending some quality time together that didn’t involve appointments and clinic waiting rooms. During this time one ultrasound was performed to monitor the stimulation and assess the outcome.

shutterstock_153759038After 7 days John and I returned to the clinic for the second phase. Once again, this included an embryo retrieval, sperm collections, fertilization period and embryo transfer. Our physician and I agreed to transfer two embryo- a standard number to increase success rates. An hour after the procedure, John and I were free to go. In all, our full-cycle (testing and medication included) cost £1944. With flights and accommodation included our total trip came to about £2900, still £3100 less than our friends in the UK. 

Two weeks after arriving home, John and I finally prepared ourselves for the second pregnancy test. The results: Positive! We were overwhelmed with joy. All the stress of the past two and a half years faded away in an instant and just three months ago we welcomed a beautiful baby girl into the world, Jenny.

Since IVF our lives have changed (for the better), and I’ve had a lot of people tell me how “brave” and “strong” John and I are for enduring the IVF process- but I think it’s more than that. IVF isn’t about bravery or strength, but instead at the core, about the unwavering desire to start a family, and the lengths you will go to make your dreams of parenthood a reality. It is a difficult process to undergo as a couple, both physically and emotionally, and we are eternally grateful for our families, the skills and knowledge of our talented physician, the clinic staff for making us comfortable. And above all, we are appreciative for the assistance and excellent service of our medical travel facilitator. Without their help and organization and we would have never connected the dots and made our trip, treatment, and new family possible.

On Your Own IVF Journey? Click Here For An Online Consultation Today! 

 

Brits, Stop Gambling With Your Health!

Hope abroad for those seeking IVF and optical surgeries

A failing system

When did healthcare become a trip to the casino? A game of Roulette after a few watered down vodka drinks. Put all your money on red, cross your fingers and hope that the odds are in your favour. However, even the most experienced gambler knows, once the chips leave your hand, all bets are off, and the dealer is always counting his money. This analogy, although a stretch, is probably closer to the truth than we’re willing to admit. Currently the UK is providing free healthcare to nearly 64.6 million people; 54.3 million in England alone. As of 2016, this means nearly 1 million patients every 36 hours.

According to the King’s Fund review, the NHS is at its most critical crossroad in decades. Growing deficits, burnt-out underpaid staff, and ever-increasingly long wait times for A&E, cancer care and even routine operations have left the once globally renowned healthcare system in a crippling state. The popular think tank said drops in performance are at the lowest they have seen since the early 1990’s, and the UK’s gaping wound is only getting larger.

“The next government will inherit a health service that has run out of money and is operating at the very edge of its limit,” commented public health policy expert, and professor, John Appleby. There is now a real risk that patient care will deteriorate as service and financial pressures become overwhelming.”

Roll of the dice

Of all the challenges facing universal healthcare, the most troubling for citizens may be the constant gamble as to whether a treatment will be approved or not. While the NHS covers everything from routine screenings, to treatment for long-term conditions and end-of-life care, the stakes become increasingly high in regards to prescription costs, optical and dental services, and fertility treatments such as IVF. Read more