By Celia SampolSep 28
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2014, 1.9 billion adults aged 18 and over were overweight, and 600 million of them were obese. The figures are based on body mass index. (BMI = weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.) An adult...
Worldwide obesity has more than doubled since 1980, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). In 2014, 1.9 billion adults aged 18 and over were overweight, and 600 million of them were obese. The figures are based on body mass index. (BMI = weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared.) An adult with a BMI equal to or greater than 25 is overweight. A BMI of 30 and above indicates obesity.
Obesity rates are growing all around the world, from America to Europe, Saudi Arabia and China to Australia. Figures are staggering, especially in the United States. According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention more than one third of the country’s adults (34.9% or 78.6 million individuals) are currently obese. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, diabetes and certain types of cancer. This is not only a public health issue, but an economic matter, as well. The estimated annual medical cost of obesity in the U.S. was $147 billion in 2008.
BIG INVESTMENTS IN SUPER-SIZE EQUIPMENT
To deal with this situation, hospitals and healthcare facilities have been adapting for years. In Indianapolis (U.S.), Franciscan St. Francis Hospital began to invest in bariatric equipment in 2002. The same year it opened a Weight Loss Center for its heaviest patients.
Rita Nevitt, Director of the Weight Loss Center described the evolution in outlook to MedicalExpo. “A couple of years ago, obesity was not recognized the way it is now. It was more focused on medical weight loss. Then bariatric surgery became more prominent and more expeditious as we moved to more refined surgery.”
The hospital invested a lot of money in specialized bariatric equipment. “Our MRIs have a bigger donut hole and a table with a higher weight limit. We also have different kinds of lifts that we can use to transport patients and that can go up to 450 kilos. We have longer needles to make injections, bariatric weight bearing wheelchairs that are located throughout the hospital, blood pressure cuffs with larger cylinder, wall-mounted toilets with support, etc. We also have bariatric trained nursing staff,” said Amy Gillard, Bariatric Coordinator at the Weight Loss Center.
NEW INNOVATIVE BARIATRIC MATERIAL
A lot of manufacturers jumped into this market and keep creating innovative material as obesity rates rise. For example, Stryker and Sizewise build bariatric beds and mattresses, and GE Healthcare’s wide-bore Optima CT580W MRI has room for larger patients and a state-of-the-art table design that can support up to 300 kilos.
XXL Rehab, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, makes the Rise N Recline shower commode, designed and engineered exclusively for bariatric users. According to XXL Rehab Director Keld Jørgensen, its vertical lift of up to one meter allows staff to better wash the patient. Washing is often an issue for obese patients who can have skin problems due to residual moisture.
Manufacturing bariatric equipment since 2000, the company “is strong in Europe, Australia and Saudi Arabia,” explained Jørgensen. “Obesity is still new to the world and we keep seeing growing demands every year” for this kind of material.
In another example of innovative material showcased at Medica 2014, Huntleigh introduced a new generation of transducers that increase the efficiency of ultrasound dopplers for obese pregnant women. Most dopplers are not able to detect fetal sounds when BMI is superior to 30 or 35. The company has developed and patented a technology which could raise the limit to 60. Huntleigh indicates that doubling the BMI level would enable the detection of fetal sounds without intervention.
Even autopsy tables have been adapted to the bariatric population. Mopec, a manufacturer in the sector, says its products are made for “larger specimens” and offer a heavy-duty scissor lift mechanism as well as a table with a lift capacity of 450 kilos.
GASTRIC SURGERY—A LUCRATIVE MARKET
According to Rita Nevitt from the Weight Loss Center, her institution not only invested in super-size equipment, it also hired bariatric-certified surgeons who practice surgeries in the Franciscan St. Francis Hospital itself.
The gastric sleeve is the most popular surgery right now because “there are less complications and the recovery rate is quicker” than with other bariatric surgeries, like the gastric bypass. About 90% of St Francis patients who decide to undergo weight-reduction surgery choose the gastric sleeve, a surgical procedure in which the stomach is reduced to about 25% of its original size. This enables them to lose up to 60% of their fat weight.
Most patients have insurance which does not cover such surgery. Or no insurance at all. This forces them to pay between $20,000 and $45,000, depending on the state. A lucrative market.
“In St. Francis, we do a little over 200 [bariatric] surgeries a year,” detailed Nevitt. The number of patients at the Weight Loss Center keeps growing every year. “For 2015, we already have had as of June 1400 additional referred patients. Last year we had over 2,000 new patients.”
EUROPE IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF AMERICA
Europe is following the same path. According to unpublished estimates from the WHO Modelling Obesity Project presented at the European Congress on Obesity in Prague earlier this year, Europe will also face an obesity epidemic by 2030. For example, nearly 48% of Irish men will be obese in 2030. Nor will the UK escape the trend. Predictions indicate 36% of its adult men suffer from obesity in 2030.