As Americans continue to gain weight, makers of MRI machines and other medical scanners are rushing to accommodate their larger sizes by literally super-sizing their equipment.
But for some Americans, the companies aren’t working fast enough to keep up with demand, reports The Wall Street Journal. Fifty-seven-year-old David Washington injured his back last year and needs surgery in order to go back to work.
Bur surgeons won’t operate on him until he gets a MRI to evaluate his injury. The problem? Washington weighs 630 pounds and has yet to find a machine big enough to fit him.
Washington stated that, “I’ve been looking for an MRI for a year.” He has even contacted Siemens and General Electric, only to have them say that their machines are not large enough for him.
While the struggle to control America’s obesity continues, equipment manufacturers see the problem, which affects 28 percent of the population, as an opportunity to rake in more money, notes Newser.
In just the past 15 years, CT scanners have grown from a diameter of two feet to about two and-a-half feet. Bernd Montag, chief executive of Siemens AG’s imaging division, which makes computed tomography, or CT, scanners to support patients well over 600 pounds, stated that:
“The US is the biggest market for us, so every product we build has the obese American patient in mind. It more or less has turned into a design requirement.”
Companies are currently experimenting with various designs including having the patients stand up instead of laying on tables,or even body-specific scanners. But radiologists have said that even those configurations have limitations including patient girth.
While scanners now on the market can fit all but the largest patients, X-rays and other imaging signals are still struggling to penetrate layers of fat. Because of this, they struggle to produce diagnostically useful images at normal doses. Instead, it takes much more radiation to image obese patients effectively, bringing new health risks to those patients.
Raul Uppot, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, has spent time researching and helping hospitals and manufacturers recognize the need for larger equipment. Dr. Uppot stated:
“The best solution to this problem is to make sure no one gets obese. But, as Americans, we constantly find a problem and instead of going to the best solution, we just build a bigger machine.”