MRI scans for obese patients being cancelled

obese mri scanPatients are missing out on vital MRI scans because they are too large to fit into standard MRI scanners.

A recent report in the Mirror analysing data from one hundred NHS trusts found that the number of cancelled MRI scans has increased. An increasing number of patients are either too obese, too large or too heavy to use standard MRI scanners.

According to the news article, many hospital trusts did not collate data concerning cancelled MRI scans, but of those that did have the information, the numbers were appalling.

  • Peterborough City Hospital had the highest number of cancellations: 193 patients were unable to have an MRI due to size since April 2015.
  • Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Essex cancelled 123 MRIs since 2015.
  •  Northumbria Healthcare Hospital saw 43 cancellations since 2015.
  • The University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust cancelled nine MRI scans in 2017/18 because the patient was too large or heavy to use the scanner.
  • Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust has recorded two cancellations due to size/weight reasons since April 2015.
  • Hospitals in Colchester, Somerset, Lancashire and Nottinghamshire also all had to cancel MRI scans despite purchasing new ‘wide bore’ scanners.

Wide-bore scanners are becoming more accessible throughout the UK, but they still often cannot accommodate large patients. These scanners are slightly wider than a traditional MRI scanner with a 72cm-wide opening as opposed to 66cm. However, an open MRI is more than double the width of a traditional scanner at 132cm wide and can fit obese patients weighing up to 500 pounds.

Tam Fry of the National Obesity Forum said: “It is lamentable that we now have so many people that can’t fit in a standard scanner – it’s a tragedy.

“One would call for bigger scanners in the same way that we now have bigger mortuary refrigerators – we are upsizing absolutely everything. In my view the government has not done sufficiently to make sure we are getting on top of the obesity problem.

“The [NHS] trusts that have bought bigger scanners have made an investment because they’re going to be needed more and more in the future.”


Newcastle Clinic accepts NHS referrals for obese patients for our open MRI scanner, which is not only much larger and able to fit bigger patients, but also provides a more relaxing, quieter experience.