Interview with Prof. Andrzej Bochenek

Professor, in recent years one can notice a new trend in tourism - health tourism. Have you ever used it?


It is worth to mention that medical tourism itself is not a completely new phenomenon, because historically looking in ancient Greece, Hippocrates himself used spa treatment. It is not surprising that people are looking for places where they can reach the full health in comfort, among the best specialists and additionally, which is often an important aspect - for reasonable money and without queues. I personally have never been forced to do this type of tourism, but my brother who lives abroad often comes to Poland with his family and uses, among other things, dental services, of which he is very pleased. In a short time Poland has become an important center for world medical tourism and I am not surprised at all - we have a well-trained, hard-working medical staff in the country, which do not give way to the most well-known from abroad. When it comes to the areas that are close to me - cardiology and cardiac surgery, I can say with a clear conscience that we are in the world's leading edge. The Polish-American Heart Clinics, of which I am the founder, have not only internationally trained medical staff - great surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, perfusionists and nursing staff, but also apply the latest technological solutions in their branches. I have repeatedly said that if I needed an intervention related to the heart and cardiovascular diseases, I would benefit from full awareness of the services of our branch and our specialists. And I have a comparison - I observe foreign branches not only through their presentations at the Congresses of Cardiac and Cardiac Surgery Societies, but also I have contact with doctors who work in those departments and often foreign patients who come to us.


You mean complicated heart procedures that do not take one day for doctors. In addition, the patient often cannot travel by plane immediately...


Of course, this is not a single day surgery, but in our clinics we support all patients comprehensively - because only a combination of professional diagnostics, modern medical care and rehabilitation gives us a guarantee of a quick recovery for a long time. We offer such stays to patients from abroad. Coordinators present not only our medical offer, but also a health resort, and it is worth noting that Ustroń Health Resort - located in the picturesque mountains of the Silesian Beskids guarantees patients an extremely advanced program of cardiological rehabilitation. A patient coming to us can plan his stay there, even with his family and friends as a form of family rest. It should also be remembered that with today's technological solutions - preparations for treatments and treatments themselves are getting shorter and shorter. As physicians, we prefer patients to rest after surgery at the Spa, not in hospital rooms. When patients are fully safe after the procedures, they can safely return home. What is also extremely important, we have extremely well-trained staff of vascular surgeons and cardiac surgeons in minimally invasive procedures, which additionally shorten the time of hospitalization and improve the comfort of treatment for patients. Thanks to frequent and close cooperation of all our doctors in the so-called "Heart teams", often with heart diseases, we manage instead of a bypass surgery, minimally invasive stents. Thanks to modern, minimally invasive methods of arterial clearance, patients who suffer from limb ischemia avoid drama, which may be the amputation of their legs. Because atherosclerosis is usually associated with heart disease, and it is atherosclerosis that often leads to limb ischemia. In Polish-American Heart Clinics, we use a number of minimally invasive techniques, and this method of treatment achieves great distant results in our facilities.


Minimally invasive procedures in cardiac surgery?


Yes, in our department of cardiac surgery in Bielsko-Biała there are world-class surgeons trained in minimally invasive procedures using endoscopy for treatment of coronary heart disease - the so-called MIDCAB and mitral valve repair surgery. Minimally invasive treatments are such methods of surgery, where we manage to reach the heart through so-called "Keyhole", thus not performing the cut of the sternum, which is clearly associated with patients with heart surgery. Without crossing any bone tissue, patients after such operations are rehabilitated very quickly and they immediately return to activity immediately. In addition, we offer cardiac surgery patients treated for aortic valve repair, which allow you to keep your own valve and additionally allow you to avoid the use of anticoagulants required after implantation of the mechanical prosthesis. Whenever they are indicated and qualified, we try to use these methods. In our clinic, however, we carry out a wide range of treatments treating ischemic heart diseases - from classic operations, through minimally invasive procedures using endovascular technique, ending with operations based on innovative technology of an extremely modern, hybrid operating room. This room has a stationary angiograph, which is equipped with an X-ray arm "C" integrated with the operating table. It is thanks to this technology that an interdisciplinary team of cardiac surgeons and cardiologists can perform innovative aortic valve implantation (TAVI, PAVTI), mitral valve repair, endovascular coronary surgery and hybrid surgery of aortic aneurysms and structural defects of the heart. When traveling around the world, you do not have the impression that are we still learning from the west? Are we slowly growing into pioneers in the treatment of heart disease? I am convinced that it is often our specialists who have experience and knowledge at such a level that they could train the rest of the world. Anyway, I'm doing it. In our clinic doctors from the East and West are taking care - they are always happy with what we show them, they often want to stay with us for longer. Specialists in our clinics do not learn on patients. We educate the staff internationally, worldwide - not only in Europe but also in Asia or the United States, where we draw the best models and new technologies. Our medical staff is not accidental - it's people who want to develop each day, not only "blindly" performing subsequent treatments. So the combination of knowledge and new technology? This distinguishes the treatment of heart disease in Poland - the Research and Development Center as part of the AHP Group was created. It was inspired by the development of medical technologies, especially in the field of interventional cardiology, which requires preclinical and clinical research as well as continuous cardiac training. We conduct and plan to continue high-quality translation research, which we hope to introduce to everyday clinical practice. Today, we already know that it is worth investing in science and constantly looking for modern and effective methods of treatment. Researchers from CBR say that the awareness that the results of their research help save human lives makes the whole team extraordinary satisfaction and gives the drive for further action. Not only in CBR, but in the entire AHP group, we cooperate with centers from all over the world - not only taking part in training programs or scientific internships, but also conducting unique research in our departments, taking part in tests, giving opinions on various types of innovations, creating articles to the largest medical journals, taking an active part in scientific conferences. We are a major voice in the world of cardiology and cardiosurgery. We have experience, professional, international staff and innovative equipment. Professor, what are the conditions of stay in the wards? Are people from abroad not accustomed to other standards? Polish-American Heart Clinics are a network of cardiology, angiology and cardiosurgery - we have over 30 facilities across Poland, we already have several years of experience. Our branches have 24-hour on-call duty to always be able to help patients. Our outlets are scattered throughout Poland, often located near the airport, from which we can offer the patient assistance in transport. Our departments and rooms are not inferior to this state-of-the-art from abroad, staff speak foreign languages, all medical information is provided to patients translated into their language on pen-drives. In addition, we can customize the offer (along with the board) to the requirements set by the patient. Our facilities have ISO certificates confirming the highest quality of services and a high level of organization. Certificates also confirm our actions to prevent negative impact on the natural environment. In 2013, we also received the "Hospital without Pain" certificate, which is awarded to institutions contributing to the improvement of the quality of postoperative pain relief. Our Bielsko branch has additionally received the Accreditation Certificate of the Ministry of Health, which is a formal confirmation of the highest quality of medical services offered by the institution. Personally, I am a demanding person when it comes to comfort, but if I was forced to, I would certainly choose one of our branches for treatment. This is probably the best recommendation.

Prof. dr hab. n. med. Andrzej Bochenek - specialist in cardiac surgery, general surgery and angiology. Academic teacher of the Silesian Medical University, a long-term member of the board of the Polish Cardiac Society. Co-founder of the network of Polish-American Heart Clinics, consultant for cardiac surgery in the department of cardiac surgery in Bielsko-Biała. Coordinator of many scientific researches, author of publications in national and international magazines.