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Overweight People More Likely to Get Misdiagnosed – Obesity Study Leads to Misdiagnosis or no Diagnosis Using CT and X-Ray Scans and MRIs

July 25th 2006

Overweight People More Likely to Get Misdiagnosed – Obesity Study Leads to Misdiagnosis or no Diagnosis Using CT and X-Ray Scans and MRIs

MRI table

Researchers in the United States say that the number of inconclusive diagnostic imaging exams over a 15 year period has doubled.  The culprit, according to the researchers, was obesity. 

They reviewed all radiology exams performed at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) between 1989 and 2003, in an effort to quantify how obesity affects diagnostic imaging quality.

Dr. Raul N. Uppot said, "While 0.10 percent of inconclusive exams were due to patient size in 1989, by 2003 the number had jumped to 0.19 percent, despite advances in imaging technology. Americans need to know that obesity can hinder their medical care when they enter a hospital."  Uppot is the lead author and and staff radiologist at MGH.


Although the power can be increased on x-rays and CT equipment, the extra radiation is considered “undesirable”.  Also, “incomplete examinations” caused by obesity can lead to serious consequences, including misdiagnosis or failure to assign a diagnosis at all. 

CT and MRI can be problematic because of weight limitations of the imaging table and the size of the opening on the imager (patients are inserted through a small "hole in the doughnut"). Standard CT tables can accommodate patients weighing up to 450 pounds, and MRI machines can typically obtain diagnostic-quality images in patients weighing up to 350 pounds.


The Department of Health and Human Services reports that 66 percent of adults in the United States are overweight, obese or morbidly obese. There are 12.5 million American children and adolescents are overweight.  Lately Hospitals have required larger wheelchairs, operating tables and imaging equipment.

"In the short term, the medical community must accommodate these patients by investing in technology to help them," Dr. Uppot explained. "In the long term, this country must make cultural shifts that promote more exercise and a healthier diet.")

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Important:  The material on Best Syndication is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical conditions. You should promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health, and you should always consult your physician before starting a fitness program.

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