Purpose: To retrospectively assess the effect of obesity on image quality, as determined from dictated radiology reports filed between 1989 and 2003.
Materials and methods: Institutional review board approval was obtained for this HIPAA-compliant study; informed consent was not required. Electronic records were searched for radiology reports with the phrase "limited due to body habitus" (hereafter, "habitus limited") filed between 1989 and 2003; reports were retrospectively reviewed. Habitus limited was qualified as the search phrase by auditing radiologic images and patient weights. Trends in the number of habitus-limited reports were calculated for each year, and linear regression analysis was performed. The number of habitus-limited reports was also compared between modalities within a year and within each modality across 15 years. The trend was correlated with the prevalence of obesity in Massachusetts by using the Pearson correlation coefficient.
Results: There was a significant difference (P < .001) between the weight of patients with habitus-limited reports and the weight of patients with reports that were not habitus limited. Overall, 7778 (0.15%) of 5 253 014 reports were habitus limited. Between 1989 and 2003, there was a linear increase of 0.010% per year (95% confidence interval: 0.007%, 0.013%; P < .001). There was a positive correlation between the increased number of habitus-limited reports and the increased prevalence of obese individuals in Massachusetts between 1991 and 2001. The modality most commonly associated with habitus-limited reports was abdominal ultrasonography.
Conclusion: There was a small but progressive increase in the number of habitus-limited radiology reports between 1989 and 2003.