Advances in Healthcare / Healthy Weighs

Body Language


Body Composition Imaging

Blue=Bones; Red=Muscles; Yellow=Fat

Ever wonder what’s behind that number on your scale? New full-body scanning technology provides an answer.

According to the latest National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, more than two-thirds of American adults are overweight or obese. A troubling statistic considering excessive body fat is associated with a host of life-altering medical conditions, from sleep apnea and diabetes to increased risk for stroke and some cancers.

Roper St. Francis now offers one of the latest advancements in the fight against obesity: the Advanced Body Composition Scan, which gives doctors the unprecedented ability to determine not only the overall fat content of a person’s body, but also the type and location of that fat tissue. Roper St. Francis affliated bariatric surgeon Dr. Kenneth Mitchell explains how the scan gives doctors—and patients—a leg up when battling obesity, or when striving to achieve or maintain overall good health.

HC: What is groundbreaking about the Advanced Body Composition Scan?

KM: Obesity is a disease in which an individual carries too much body fat, so seeing the breakdown of a person’s fat content is much more telling than looking at his or her weight alone. The scan provides a variety of measurements, including, but not limited to: total body fat and muscle mass percentages; bone weight; fat mass index (FMI), which measures excess fat rather than excess weight, as does a BMI; ratio of total body composition (i.e. muscle versus fat mass throughout the body); and visceral adipose tissue (VAT) score, a measurement of fat deposits around the organs.

HC: Why is distribution of fat throughout the body signifcant?

KM: Fat can be more dangerous in some parts of the body than others. Visceral fat—which is located in the abdominal cavity surrounding the vital organs—is a more dangerous type of fat and has a higher correlation with conditions like heart disease and diabetes. Subcutaneous fat, or the visible fat that lies just beneath the skin, is not as reliably linked to medical issues.

HC: How are the scan results used?

KM: After determining the type of fat a person is carrying, we can develop the best plan for treating it. For example, we have seen morbidly obese patients successfully lose visceral fat by combining diet and exercise with bariatric, or weight loss, surgery. The scan is also a great tool for tracking progress. By comparing scans over time, we can determine if a fat loss plan was efective. In addition, it is helpful for anyone interested in evaluating his or her body composition from a wellness standpoint, as well as for serious athletes. The scan lets athletes monitor and develop specifc training programs to achieve desired results, develop personalized meal plans and other nutritional strategies, and gauge progress and changes in the body composition in order to optimize athletic performance.

HC: What does the scanning process entail?

KM: The body scan is administered by a radiologic technologist and uses the same technology as a bone density scan: a completely painless, low-dose X-ray. Patients lie fat in a machine for three to seven minutes and, when complete, the scan results produce a color image (like above), which is given to the patient before he or she leaves. The ordering doctor will also receive a copy of the results.

HC: How can patients request one and how much does it cost?

KM: The scan is $69. Discuss it with your primary care doctor, who can schedule one for you at a Roper St. Francis radiology facility in either James Island or West Ashley.

By: Jacqui Calloway

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