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The challenge of CT and MRI imaging of obese individuals who present to the emergency department: a national survey.

Obesity 2008 November
The objective of this study was to estimate the availability of large weight capacity computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) equipment in US hospitals with emergency departments (EDs) and to evaluate animal facilities as alternate sources of imaging. We conducted a telephone survey of radiology technicians from a random sample of all the US hospitals with EDs (n = 262) and all 136 primary hospitals of academic EDs, 145 zoos, and 28 veterinary schools. We measured the prevalence of large weight capacity (>450 lb) CT and MRI, stratified by hospital characteristics. Response rates were 94-100% across samples. Nationally, 10% (95% confidence interval, 7-15) of hospitals with EDs had large weight capacity CT and 8% (95% confidence interval, 5-13) had large weight capacity MRI. In academic hospitals, access to large capacity equipment was better for CT (28%), but similar for MRI (10%) (P < 0.001 and 0.51, respectively). Few rural (5%) and critical-access hospitals (3%) had large capacity CT. In addition, 34% of trauma centers, 23% of stroke centers, and 21% of bariatric surgery centers of excellence had large capacity CT. Only two zoos (1%) had CT scanners; both would not image human patients. Among veterinary schools, 16 (57%) had large weight capacity CT equipment, but only 4 (14%) would consider imaging human patients. Further, 23 (82%) veterinary schools reported policies that specifically prohibited imaging humans. For patients who weigh >450 lb, access to emergent CT and MRI is limited, even at academic and bariatric surgery centers. Animal facilities are not a viable alternative for diagnostic imaging of human patients.

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