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Emerg Med J. 2007 May; 24(5): 372.
PMCID: PMC2658504

Need for knowledge of local scanners for patients with morbid obesity

We recently came across a very peculiar situation where we could not perform an urgent MRI scan for a patient owing to weight restrictions on the scanner in our hospital (Weston General Hospital, Uphill, Weston‐Super‐Mare, UK).

A 44‐year‐old man weighing 197 kg was admitted to our hospital with features of progressive bilateral loss of vision, followed by flaccid paraparesis and loss of sphincter tone, with urinary and faecal incontinence. The patient required an urgent MRI scan of the brain, spinal cord and orbits, but this was not possible owing to weight restrictions on the scanner (<21 stones). The patient was then sent to another hospital for an MRI scan, but the scanner broke under the patient's weight. Finally, the patient was scanned in a private MRI scanner that could take patients up to 250 kg in weight and was diagnosed as having neuromyelitis optica; this whole process took us 7 days. He was transferred to a tertiary hospital and died a few days later.

We have now obtained information regarding the contact of nearby scanners that can take patients with weights up to 250 kg; this has been included in the hospital protocol book.

Obesity is becoming an increasing problem within the UK.1 Hospitals can expect more patients with weight in excess of the upper limit for most scanners. Given our experience, we think that hospitals should set up contact with nearby scanners that can scan patients with obesity locally, thereby saving lives and preventing potential medicolegal problems.


Competing interests: None declared.


1. Haslam D W, James W P. Obesity. Lancet 2005. 3661197–1209.1209 [PubMed]

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