The increase in U.S. obesity may represent a new opportunity for medical device makers, and not just from rise in diabetes, hypertension and other weight-related health issues.
Hospitals and patients are in need of larger imaging machines, longer needles and other devices designed to work for larger bodies.
"The U.S. is the biggest market for us, so every product we build has the obese American patient in mind," Siemens (NYSE:SI) imaging chief Bernd Montag told the Wall Street Journal. "It more or less has turned into a design requirement."
Over the last 15 years U.S. obesity has grown 40%, now including 1 out of every 3 Americans. Meanwhile, CT scanner diameters have increased 33%, from 60 cm to 80 cm or more, according to the paper.
But larger bore machines aren’t an answer in themselves. Larger bodies mean thicker tissues to penetrate in order to scan bones and organs, which could expose patients to dangerous amounts of radiation.
Medical device makers are eager to develop systems that streamline the radiation dose and maintain image integrity, technology that will ultimately benefit all imaging patients.
The rising obesity may be a windfall for device makers as hospitals and clinics upgrade to machines capable of handling a wider swath of patients, which may cost as much as 40% more than their predecessors, according to the Journal.