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Is there a weight limit for a cardiac catheterization?

Sometimes hospitals have to refer very obese patients to other hospitals or devise adaptations to be able to perform cardiac catheterizations. A cardiac catheterization is a procedure where a physician inserts a catheter into an artery in the arm or the leg and threads it to the heart.

Catheters are inserted into the arteries for a variety of reasons: they can be used to measure blood pressure in the heart and how much oxygen is in the blood or inject dyes that are used to view the arteries though an imaging test called an angiogram. If the catheter has a balloon on the end, it can be used to open up blockages in the artery in a procedure called angioplasty.

Cardiac catheterizations are performed in a hospital’s catheterization lab, or “cath lab.” During cardiac catheterizations, patients lie on a table. These tables are currently designed to handle weight limits that may present problems with rising rates of extreme obesity.

A recent study surveyed hospitals in the United States to assess what weight limits their cardiac cath labs could accommodate. Some hospitals could not treat patients of 350 pounds or more. The average weight at which a hospital would have to refer a patient elsewhere was 437.5 pounds, and the highest weight limit a U.S cath lab could accommodate was 550 pounds.

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