Professor Ferdinand Köckerling: Obesity – a lifestyle disease and its treatment

Adiposity, or clinical obesity, is a lifestyle disease affecting increasing numbers of people worldwide. Obese patients often find it difficult to live a normal life, have a severely limited quality of life and find themselves under increasing mental strain.

They are also more likely to suffer from serious secondary diseases, such as diabetes, high blood pressure with the risk of a heart attack or stroke and premature wearing of the joints and spine. Without assistance, it is difficult to escape this vicious circle: easy availability of high-calorie meals leads to increased body weight and a lack of physical exercise – leading to further weight gains. In severe cases, a lasting reduction in weight is usually only possible with an operation on the digestive tract. As obesity is a highly complex illness that puts patients at greater risk during operations, an interdisciplinary approach involving specialist departments is required to provide patients with optimum treatment. Vivantes, the Berlin-based hospital group, has taken on this challenge and established a Centre for Obesity and Metabolic Surgery at the Vivantes Hospital in Spandau.

Under the care of obesity specialists Professors Lange and Köckerling, patients in Spandau undergo an operation that is best suited to their situation and that uses special robust equipment. Professor Lange is a proven specialist in various surgical methods used to treat obesity, such as the insertion of a gastric balloon, implantation of a gastric band and performance of a gastric bypass. “An operation is often the only remaining option for treating clinically obese patients with a body mass index of over 40. Dietary changes and additional exercise are usually no longer adequate to deal with a body weight of this magnitude,” explains Professor Lange.

Examples of minimally invasive operations: gastric bypass, adjustable gastric band, sleeve gastrectomy

At the Vivantes Centre for Obesity and Metabolic Surgery, 99 per cent of operations are carried out using minimally invasive techniques. Over the last few years, Professors Köckerling and Lange have become established names in this field of surgery both in Germany and internationally. “Minimally invasive surgery requires only small incisions to be made in the abdominal wall,” says Professor Köckerling. “This is especially important for obese patients because large surgical scars heal particularly badly in these patients and they are therefore at greater risk of infection.”

Treatment offered by the obesity centre at the Vivantes Hospital in Spandau:

  • Obesity check-up and in-depth consultation with patients

  • Conservative and operative therapies

  • Long-term programmes (including dietary advice, exercise, life planning, psychological support)

The operating suite is equipped with tables and beds designed to take particularly heavy loads as well as extra-wide seating that can even bear patients weighing more than 250kg. “These facilities enable us to provide optimum medical care, even as the number of operations rises,” says Professor Lange.

Dr Andreas Schmitt, Regional Director of the Vivantes Hospital in Spandau and the Humboldt Hospital, believes the new centre is one of the top five in Europe for the treatment of obesity. “We anticipate an average of 600 patients per year. Besides German patients, we also expect to see an increasing number of people from abroad, for example from the Gulf States.” To make the hospital even more attractive to international patients, luxury wards have been built at four sites. The rooms are of a superior hotellike standard with a pleasant atmosphere and are equipped with televisions that can receive over 100 satellite channels. Staff are multilingual and have received intercultural training, while meals meet religious and personal requirements. This ensures patients at the Vivantes hospitals in Berlin gain a better quality of life in more ways than one.