Radiology and Obesity

Published: 30th October 2008
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As obesity continues to rise among Americans, one of the "weighty" issues facing the radiology community is how to ensure that overweight patients receive quality medical imaging. Imaging and treating obese patients has become a priority for radiologists across the country.

What challenge does obesity pose for radiology?
There are two main problems facing radiologists when trying to obtain diagnostic images of obese patients: equipment issues and insufficient imaging parameters.

The equipment issue is very straightforward; an increasing number of obese patients are simply unable to fit inside imaging equipment designed for average-sized patients. The traditional design of MRI and CT scanning machines is cylindrical, requiring the patient to fit onto a table that is slowly moved inside the scanning machine. The radiology industry has recently started to address this issue by introducing new equipment, including wider tables and scanners. In fact, the "open MRI" table is slowly making its way into most radiology practices, providing a new option for scanning obese patients.

The issue of imaging parameters is of significant concern for radiologists, especially given the fact that obese patients generally require more imaging studies than average-sized patients. Conventional imaging parameters are simply not sufficient to penetrate multiple layers of fat; the more fat a patient has the more difficult it is to read images of their body. The solution for this issue for many radiology centers has been to turn up the power to improve image quality. This has produced more accurate imaging of obese patients, but radiologists are still waiting for equipment manufacturers to provide scanners that can penetrate layers of fatty tissue without compromising image quality or requiring shortcuts.

Tips for Obese Patients
Patients who are obese should be aware of the limitations of imaging modalities such as ultrasound, x-ray, CT scan, and MRI scan, and ensure that their physicians are finding ways to maximize the quality of their diagnostic images. The best way to overcome these difficulties is to discuss imaging strategies with your physician.


For an open MRI scan in Honolulu, overweight patients can visit Accuimaging Kapolei's radiology associates. They also offer digital x-ray exams in Honolulu.

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