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Super-sizing hospital equipment can cost up to $5 million

Posting in Sustainability

Hospitals and doctors are investing in adjustments for obese patients: iron-wrought waiting room chairs, wheelchairs and beds made to sustain extra weight, and toilets mounted to the floor, not the wall. Indianapolis Star reports.

The trend started about a decade ago when bariatric surgery took off in popularity and the American public began ballooning in weight. By the mid-2000s, hospitals had started to update with these patients in mind. That can mean anything from wider doorways to bigger commodes.

More than a third of U.S. hospitals invested in renovations to serve obese and morbidly obese patients better. In the past year, some hospitals have spent as much as $5 million in updates, according to the 2012 Novation report released last month.

  • Staff at Franciscan St. Francis Hospital Indianapolis have a wide-bore MRI scanner with a larger opening.
  • IU Health Methodist installed ceiling lifts to help move and transfer patients.
  • Surgeons at St. Vincent Indianapolis operate with the assistance of robots, which result in a better prognosis than open procedures for heavy patients (it’s harder to predict how morbidly obese patients will respond to surgery stresses and anesthesia). A robotic arm with its camera on the end gives the surgeon a view inside the body, leading to fewer complications and a quicker recovery.
  • Other considerations have included: larger stirrups for surgery, longer needles to deliver injections, and special surgical equipment to reach deeper inside a patient's abdominal cavity.

And hospitals have been trying to make all these changes sensitively – taking care not to identify patients as an obese patient through the whole journey.

As it turns out, these adjustments benefits thinner patients too:

  • Vein viewers can locate veins in patients whose fat obscures their vascular access; they're also useful in patients with difficult-to-find veins.
  • Scanners need wide enough holes and strong enough tables to accommodate larger patients; patients with claustrophobia may also appreciate them.

[Via Indianapolis Star]

Image by arriba via Flickr

— By on January 21, 2013, 1:03 PM PST

Janet Fang

Contributing Editor

Janet Fang has written for Nature, Discover and the Point Reyes Light. She is currently a lab technician at Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. She holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley and Columbia University. She is based in New York. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure