The Cry Baby is on sabbatical ....

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Obese patients sent to the zoo for CT scans

Patients in Britain who are too obese to fit in the hospital CT scanners are now being shipped over to the zoo to be scanned, according to British newspapers. As obesity becomes more and more of a problem, the number of patients too obese to fit in the scanners is increasing and finding oversize scanners for them to fit in is becoming an issue.

Warmblood horse being scanned  at the University of Pretoria

The problem with the story is that it appear to be an urban legend.  The London Zoo has denied scanning obese human patients.The Royal Veterinary College did acknowledge that they have been approached about the scans. Their spokesman said: "We have been approached on several occasions but have always said we are only licensed to perform scans on animals.’ It is not known whether any veterinary colleges are seeking licenses to perform the procedure." 

Is this happening in America? It appears that it might have  been attempted. The American College of Radiology (ACR) reported on their website that a doctor in New York referred a patient to the Bronx Zoo for a scan:

When 407-pound Jennifer Walters kept complaining of acute back and leg pain, her doctor made an unorthodox referral for a diagnostic scan: Go to the zoo. Aware that the New York City woman was too large to squeeze into an MR scanner, the physician reasoned that if the nearby Bronx Zoo could image hippopotami, elephants, rhinos, and other large animals, surely it could accommodate her.
Outraged, Walters complained to the New York Post, whose editors promptly turned her private humiliation into a public joke that circled the globe. One media source spoke for the insensitivity of many when it ran the headline: "Fat Lady Sent to Zoo for MRI." [editor's note: ACR chose not to link to that particular article] "It's humiliating," Walters would later tell a reporter. "It was like I was an animal."
"Executive director of the Association of Zoo Veterinary Technicians Joel Pond "routinely fields calls from radiologists and other physicians looking for supersized scanners for their plus-sized patients. Individually, the calls typically don't annoy Pond, but they add up. It didn't help when the NBC television comedy "Scrubs" recently depicted a morbidly obese character being told to go to a zoo for a diagnostic scan." 
CT scan image
"Very few zoos own a CT machine — only one of which is known to me — and none own MRIs," Pond says. "And that one zoo, along with veterinary specialty practices that do have this larger equipment, obtained them from the human side. Zoos do not have any special imaging equipment for large animals that is not already available in the human field. Our 400-pound gorillas are imaged with standard radiograph machines and would not fit into any CT or MRI we could currently use. No matter how you slice it (pun intended), a 40-inch-wide ape will not fit through a 27-inch opening in a CT scanner." 
 "Recollecting one incident, Pond comments, "A radiologist called and said, ‘We have a large person that we'd like to bring over to see your CT.' I told him we don't have one. There was this silence, and then he said, ‘Well, my colleague here, Dr. So and So, said they brought patients to your zoo all the time. And I said, ‘No, you can't bring patients to a machine that we don't have.'" Pond says some physicians offer to airlift or transport their patients themselves. When Pond politely turns them down, some get angry."
Even though there is a real problem here, we'll have to put the urban legend stamp on this one.

Subscribe to The Cry Baby Blog by Email


Ed Somerville said...

Your story is somewhat erroneous. There is a difference between CT scanner tables used in inpatient and outpatient facilities and those used in veterinary settings. Those in veterinary settings have table weight limits that are 3-4 times greater than those for human use. The indexing motors do not have to be certified.

Post a Comment