'We are going to have to send you to the zoo,' doctors tell obese patients too large to fit in hospital scanners
- Standard sized CT scanners too small for obese
- CT scanners customised for horses could accommodate growing problem
- Dr Dharamshi, said he was told to refer patients to zoo
NHS hospitals have resorted to asking zoos and vets to scan patients who are too obese to fit into hospital scanners.
The bizarre requests to use CT scanners, normally intended for four-legged animals, at the UK’s leading veterinary college in north London were revealed as hospitals face pressure to adapt beds and wards for an increasingly obese population.
The Royal Veterinary College (RVC)yesterday said its CT scanners, customised for horses, could be used to accommodate patients weighing 30 stone or more but they would need to get a special licence to scan humans.
CT scanners usually used by zoos and vet for horses could help scan obese human patients
Riaz Dharamshi, a geriatric registrar at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington, West London, said he was told to refer obese patients to London Zoo when he was training.
The practice of referring patients to zoos is commonplace in America where obesity has reached epidemic levels.
Writing on his blog, he said ‘Imagine the humiliation for the patient. ‘I’m sorry sir but you are too fat to have a CT scan, so we are going to have to send you to the zoo where they are used to dealing with larger specimens.’'
However a spokesperson from the Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, which oversees
St Mary's Hospital, said: 'We have never referred or been asked to
refer a patient to London Zoo or the Royal Veterinary College for
London Zoo also denied taking obese
patients but a spokeswoman for the Royal Veterinary College confirmed
they have been approached.
She 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.
Hospitals face pressure to adapt equipment for Britain's obese population
Dr Dharamshi added ‘Some bright spark decided it would be a good idea to up the loading capacity of the tables we use in the CT scanners, so the problem of having patients too big to scan is not one we face all that often.
‘Wheelchairs are wider, theatre operating tables are stronger and we have access to reinforced hospital beds when we need them. Being overweight has become the norm.’
The CT scanner at the RVC is housed in the equine hospital and is used with a specially built table to support anaesthetised horses.
CT scans are used by doctors to assess body fat as well as for more general health checks to see if anything is wrong.
Briatin’s fire crews have spent millions on callouts by the NHS in recent years shifting obese patients who have got stuck in the bath or their bedrooms, or who cannot be safely lifted by ambulance staff.
A report last year warned the NHS is ‘poorly prepared’ to deal with obese patients, lacking staff and equipment to care for them safely.
Bigger trolley, beds and wheelchairs are needed – with more than half of women and almost two thirds of men likely to be obese by 2050, according to official estimates.
The report found incidents involved equipment not being able to take the weight of obese patients, with specially adapted equipment either not being available or normal equipment not working properly when used with obese patients.
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