Dieters banking on Czech inflation

by Bryn Bailer ,  CBW | 2008-04-28

It’s no secret that Western Europeans flock to the Czech Republic for affordable breast augmentations, lip enhancements and other cosmetic surgeries. Increasingly, however, they are being joined by obese medical tourists seeking to lose weight by unorthodox means.

Last month, Eleanor Conroy traveled to the Czech Republic from her home in Brighton, England, to have a medical-grade gastric balloon inserted down her esophagus and into her stomach, where it was inflated with saline solution via a catheter. The device takes up space in her stomach, making her feel full even when she has eaten only small amounts of food.

The procedure is relatively straightforward and painless, especially when compared with invasive gastric bypass surgeries that physically make the stomach smaller with staples, elastic bands, intestinal reconfiguration, or by simply cutting away a large portion of the stomach. The balloon procedure was also a bargain for Conroy at £1,950 (Kč 60,356/€ 2,450), less than half of what she would have paid in the U.K.

It was also quick. Conroy—who had the procedure done March 31 weighing 101 kilograms—was on a flight back home in less than a week. When she talked to CBW by phone last week, she had already dropped almost 6 kilograms.

“My weight got out of hand,” Conroy said. She stands 162 centimeters tall, and some 10 years ago weighed in at a respectable 63 kilograms. “I’ve been trying diets, trying diets, but because I’ve gotten so heavy, I hit some sort of depression. I really felt this would be a big motivation.”

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