At Reina Imaging, we are asked the following question almost daily:

“How much patient weight can your DR panel holder take?”

This is an important question, and it’s one that can be influenced by multiple variables, one of those variables being the amount of pressure a given material can withstand. In a medical setting, there are two different types of weight – distributed weight and direct weight.

These two different types of weight are often discussed as if they are one in the same – however, that is not true. They are vastly different, yet equally important to consider.

Here’s an explanation of the two different types of patient weight:

  1. Distributed Weight
    • When a patient is supine or semi-upright (lying down), their overall weight is distributed over the surface of whatever they are on. One example of this would be if a patient in the ICU needed a KUB X-ray. That patient is male, catatonic and weighs 245 lbs., so the radiographer needs to roll the patient up on their side and place the imaging receptor underneath the patient’s abdominal region, and then lay them back down. Not an easy task for anyone. Now it may seem like all 245 lbs. of that patient’s weight is on the imaging receptor, but that is simply not the case. The weight of the extremities, head, and torso make up a good amount of the patient’s overall weight. The abdominal region makes up just over 50% of the weight. So that leaves us with approximately 123 lbs. of weight – not the full 245 lbs.
  2. Direct Weight
    • Direct patient weight plays into radiographic procedures where the full weight of the patient must be applied to imaging receptor. This requires them to be standing fully upright. These exams are typically done to see joint spaces and hairline fractures during a bilateral standing foot exam. From patient step stools to exam tables – direct patient weight tolerances are imperative to the capability of a device. It is crucial to know both the patient’s weight and the product’s weight tolerance.

Patient Weight Tolerance in Diagnostic Imaging

Whether a patient’s weight is directly applied to a device or whether it’s distributed is important when it comes to selecting the correct accessory to properly protect the imaging receptor. During most portable exams, the patient is placed in a semi-upright or supine position. They are only applying distributed weight to the imaging receptor, holder or grid, which is about half of the patient’s full weight.

There are also weight-bearing exams to consider. These are radiographs in which the patient’s full weight must be used to visualize specific pathology.

If the exam involves feet, the patient must apply their full weight directly to the imaging receptor. Luckily, there are protective products like weight distribution caps that can keep the imaging receptor safe during these crucial exams.

Be Careful!

DR panels are capital investments – they are very expensive and can break. When a DR panel gets damaged the first emotion that probably comes to mind is frustration. The second is, how did this occur?

When playing detective, remember – though patient weight may have contributed to the damage of the DR panel, there’s also a good possibility that user error may have occurred.

Ask yourself: was the correct protective device used? Did the radiographer stress relieve patient weight before removing the imaging receptor, or did they lift up on the device causing additional pressure?

These are all important questions to keep in mind when determining the capability of a DR panel holder or when something goes awry with an existing holder.