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Thursday, September 20th 2012

The MRIs Aren’t Large Enough Or The People Aren’t Small Enough

David Washington has encountered a hurdle to getting the medical treatment he needs to return to work as a mechanic: He can’t find an imaging device large enough to accommodate his 630 pounds.

The 57-year-old Mr. Washington hurt his back at work last year, but said surgeons won’t operate without a magnetic resonance imaging, or MRI, scan to evaluate his injury.

“I’ve been looking for an MRI for a year,” he said, a saga that has included fruitless phone calls to imaging equipment makers such as Siemens AG and General Electric Co., and a two-hour trip from his home in Wheaton, Md., to a Virginia clinic only to find he was too large for their equipment.

The above from a WSJ piece looking at how the growth in American obesity is impacting patient’s ability to get medical imaging. A hat-tip to The Atlantic for the link.

I don’t have the data for, but I imagine neurosurgeons utilize MR imaging as much as any other specialty. MRIs in particular are a problem for those morbidly obese patients. More than once in my training care on a brain tumor or a spinal cord injury has required patient transfer away from the acute care hospital to an outside facility for lower quality open MRI because the patient’s weight precluded the use of any of the many MRI machines at the hospital of presentation. It is a real world problem that delays care. Now there are more applicable and likely real world reasons that the very large should be working diligently to reduce their weight; this is a rare concern but, still, it’s something else to consider. I’m not sure the solution is larger machines but smaller people.