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Australia: Obesity Epidemic Affecting Autopsies

Posted: March 3rd, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Biology, Cankler Science News, Health, Medicated, Science News | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Australia: Obesity Epidemic Affecting Autopsies

Australia - Obesity Epidemic Affecting AutopsiesAustralians are getting more obese by the day, with experts warning body fat is masking the diagnosis of other illnesses. It is causing stress on Australia’s public health system and the people who have to examine the grossly overweight bodies. South Australian forensic pathologist Roger Byard says the problem is so bad he cannot get some of his clients onto his examination tables, reports Rebecca Brice from abc.net.au.

Dr Byard says obesity is one of the most frightening epidemics he has seen in his four decades in medicine. “We have antibiotics for infections, we have chemotherapy for cancer, so we take two steps forward but with the obesity problem we’re almost taking three steps back,” Dr Byard said.

Dr Byard says since 1986 the rate of morbidly obese bodies entering his Adelaide mortuary has risen from just over 1 per cent to almost 5 per cent. At times the bodies are so big he has to dissect them on the floor. “We try to avoid this obviously, but if a body is so large that we can’t safely put the body on a trolley then we have to perform the autopsy on the floor, which is terribly difficult.”

The bigger the bodies, he says, the harder it is to dissect them and the harder it is to find the cause of death. “Obesity comes with so many diseases – it’s almost how do you choose which is the problem,” he said. “As well as the fact that they have to carry this excess weight around, their heart’s being compressed and this adipose tissue material is secreting toxins that people think actually cause death of heart cells. So they’re being attacked on all fronts.” Dr Byard said.

The problems are not confined to the morgue. Some obese hospital patients do not fit into CT scanning machines and excess fat can hinder the taking of blood using syringes, which impedes diagnosis in both the dead and the living.

Read more at ABC


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