Too Fat to Scan

I’ve been surprised to find that one of my favorite parts of studying anatomy has been our radiology sessions. Radiology seems to have a reputation, surpassed perhaps only by pathology, as a specialty for doctors who aren’t good with people. I like to think that I’ve got a good bedside manner and I love talking with patients, so radiology has never been on my radar. But we’ve got an excellent professor and there really is something fascinating about looking inside the body without cutting it open. Plus, it’s fun to identify all the relevant anatomical structures and figure out what (if anything) is pathological (i.e. what’s causing the problem).

These days, everyone knows that obesity is a huge problem in the United States. But, did you know that Americans are getting so fat hospitals are having to buy larger and larger machines to scan them? As the Wall Street Journal reports, large CT scanners, which can often accomodate patients weighing over 600 lbs., cost 40% more (as much as $650k). It’s not as simple as just throwing more money at the problem to buy bigger machines, though. All that extra fat, which absorbs/deflects X-rays, means that higher (and more dangerous) doses and better software are needed to see inside obese patients.

Sources: CDC; Siemens (photo & specs) via WSJ

The obvious best solution would just be to prevent people from getting obese. But, this is ‘Merika, so we’ll probably just keep on super-sizing our CT scanners along with our Happy Meals.


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