EMS and Obese Patients


It’s no secret obesity rates in America have dramatically increased over the past twenty years. In fact, two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese.

People who are overweight or obese are more susceptible to the following health conditions:

  • Coronary heart disease
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancers (endometrial, breast, and colon)
  • Hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • Dyslipidemia (for example, high total cholesterol or high levels of triglycerides)
  • Stroke
  • Liver and Gallbladder disease
  • Sleep apnea and respiratory problems
  • Osteoarthritis (a degeneration of cartilage and its underlying bone within a joint)
  • Gynecological problems (abnormal menses, infertility)

It’s a sensitive subject but being at a higher risk of the above health conditions probably means being at higher risk for the need of emergency medical services at some point in time.

Paramedics and firefighters care for patients weighing 400 or 500 pounds or more, two or three times a week. If their department does not have specialized equipment (jumbo soft stretcher, bee board, backboard, bariatric stretcher) to move larger patients they need to come up with creative ways to move them (tarp, forklift).

Although large patients may pose more of a challenge to transport they’re always treated with the same respect as any other patient.

If you’re in the EMS field how often do you respond to calls that result in an overweight or obese patient needing to be transported? Does your department carry specialized equipment or do you have to improvise?

Sources: CDC.gov, Jems.com, Omaha.com, Syracuse.com