"We noticed over the past couple of years that obesity was playing a role in our ability to see these (scanner) images clearly," says Dr. Raul Uppot, a radiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Uppot's research team examined more than 5 million medical reports, searching for the term: "These images are limited due to body habitus" -- which is what appears in the medical records of obese people whose scans were unreadable. The affected scans included X-rays, CT scans, MRIs and PET scans performed from 1989 to 2003.
The average weight of the obese patients whose records were studied was 239 pounds. While some patients have fat that is too dense for the scanners to see through -- a serious problem for ultrasounds -- others are so obese that they physically do not fit inside scanner machines. This problem has led many medical companies to begin producing and profiting from extra-large scanners.
"It is a market out there," says Uppot. "People who are taking advantage of it are making money. We (Massachusetts General) are in the process of buying and installing three of these machines."
As Americans' waistlines continue to grow, critics of conventional medicine say the answer is not bigger scanning machines, but better education of patients. "Modern medical authorities have yet to concede that food choice causes diabetes and obesity," explains Mike Adams, a consumer health advocate. "Conventional medicine sees disease as a profit center. Patient education and prevention strategies are routinely ignored in a desire to build bigger, better and more expensive machines to diagnose and manage degenerative diseases that could be easily prevented through simple, safe and low-cost methods," said Adams.