The impact of obesity on the quality of medical imaging

Dovilė Barakauskaitė1

1Lithuanian University of Health Sciences, Academy of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania



With the rapid advancement of modern medical technology, diagnostic radiology is becoming more accessible and high quality. However, in some cases its capabilities may be limited by patient-related factors. Obesity can be a significant factor in the quality of medical imaging. It is a complex disease that affects not only a person’s appearance but also causes serious health consequences. It is associated with increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, diabetes and tumors in certain localizations, such as colon, breast or cervix. It is a disease that is diagnosed when the body mass index (BMI) is above 30 kg/m2. Although lately there has been much debate about this unit of measurement, as it does not reflect the distribution of fat in the human body, it remains a quick and cheap tool for doctors to assess whether a patient is obese. Both patient weight and body mass index are important factors that need to be evaluated before a radiological examination. Excessive patient weight and constitutional characteristics compromise not only the quality of image. It also points out the problem of not adapted technology or untrained staff. Computed or magnetic resonance tomography and fluoroscopy examinations may not be performed due to the exceeded table weight limit as they are used in these examinations. Even though medical imaging that requires advanced and expensive technology has become frequently used and available in recent decades, however it has encountered another problem – the inability to adapt to the individual human body. Global trends indicate that the number of obese people is going to rise and conditions that need urgent and high-quality screening are requiring solutions. Technology is improving and new protocols are being installed to achieve the best imaging quality. This article reviews the challenges that are posed by obesity in different radiological studies such as ultrasound, radiography, fluoroscopy, computed and magnetic resonance tomography and discusses their possible solutions.

Keywords: obesity; body mass index; radiology; medical imaging; ultrasound; radiography; fluoroscopy; computed tomography; magnetic resonance tomography