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Obesity Has Growing Impact on Diagnostic Imaging Exams

Small, but progressive increase in habitus-limited radiology reports from 1989 to 2003

TUESDAY, July 25 (HealthDay News) -- Obesity can hinder the quality of diagnostic imaging exams and is having a growing impact on abdominal ultrasounds, chest radiographs and other tests, according to a study in the August issue of Radiology.

Raul N. Uppot, M.D., of Harvard Medical School in Boston, and colleagues assessed all radiology exams conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1989 to 2003 to determine what effects obesity had on image quality and diagnosis.

Overall, 0.15 percent of 5,253,014 reports were "limited due to body habitus," the study indicates. The investigators also found a linear annual increase of 0.010 percent in such reports during the study period, and noted a correlation between increased habitus-limited reports and the increased prevalence of obesity in the state of Massachusetts between 1991 and 2001.

Abdominal ultrasound was the procedure most marred by obesity in terms of diagnosis (1.90 percent), followed by chest radiograph, abdominal radiographs, abdominal computed tomography (CT), chest CT and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) for all body parts.

"Radiologists should be aware of the limitations of current imaging equipment and be knowledgeable in the optimization of imaging protocols and equipment settings when examining large patients," the authors conclude.

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