NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2006

More overweight and obese U.S. residents are receiving inadequate medical care because their excess fat is interfering with X-rays, ultrasound imaging and other high-tech diagnostic tools, according to a study to be published in the August issue of Radiology.

Researchers analyzed radiology reports including X-rays, MRIs and CT scans from 1989 to 2003.  The researchers tallied the number of reports labeled "limited by body habitus," a term used to indicate that patients' sizes interfered with proper diagnoses.

  • In 1989, 0.10 percent, of radiology reports considered in the study were classified as habitus limited, while 0.19 percent of reports were classified as such in 2003.
  • Abdominal ultrasounds posed the greatest challenge, followed by chest X-rays, abdominal CTs, abdominal X-rays, chest CTs and general MRIs.
  • According to Health and Human Services, an estimated 66 percent of adults in the United States are overweight, obese or morbidly obese, which causes hospitals to "feel the strain," the study reports.

Lead researcher Raul Uppot, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, said, "In the short term, the medical community must accommodate these patients by investing in technology to help them…in the long term, this country must make cultural shifts that promote more exercise and a healthier diet."

Source: Raul N. Uppot et al., "Effect of Obesity on Image Quality: Fifteen-year Longitudinal Study for Evaluation of Dictated Radiology Reports," Radiology, August 2006.


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