Modeling Obese Imaging Phantoms, RPI Researcher Finds Higher Dosages Likely

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More than one-third of all Americans are obese, and yet most medical imaging equipment is not designed to accommodate them. This fact also underscores the likelihood of their increased exposure to ionizing radiation, says new researchreported in the journal Physics in Medicine & Biology.

By mathematically developing a pair of gender-specific phantoms that reflect more accurately the composition of an obese man and women, respectively, a nuclear engineer at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute concluded that people with larger body types would absorb about 60% more radiation on average than a person of normal weight.

“Radiation exposure is cumulative over a patient’s lifetime,” said X. George Xu, who heads up the RPI Nuclear Engineering Program, press release. “Regretfully, our study shows that obese and overweight patients can be exposed to an even greater level of radiation.”

Xu plans to parlay these findings into a digital phantom-modeling software package called VirtualDose, which he claimed “will compare the radiation doses a patient will get from different CT scanner settings, and then choose the most appropriate configuration.” The same statement cannily posits that such a product might be a big seller in California, where patient radiation dose records are mandatory.