Incidental Findings and Low-Value Care

Link to article at PubMed

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2023 Jan 11. doi: 10.2214/AJR.22.28926. Online ahead of print.


Incidental imaging findings are common and analogous to the results of screening tests when screening is performed of unselected, low-risk patients. Approximately 15-30% of all diagnostic imaging and 20-40% of CT examinations contain at least one incidental finding. Patients with incidental findings but low risk for disease are likely to experience length bias, lead-time bias, overdiagnosis, and overtreatment that create an illusion of benefit while conferring harm. This includes incidental detection of many types of cancers that, although malignant, would have been unlikely to affect a patient's health had the cancer not been detected. Detection of some incidental findings can improve health, but most do not. Greater patient- and disease-related risk increase the likelihood an incidental finding is important. Clinical guidelines for incidental findings should more deeply integrate patient risk factors and disease aggressiveness to inform management. Lack of outcome and cost-effectiveness data have led to reflexive management strategies for incidental findings that promote low-value and sometimes harmful care.

PMID:36629303 | DOI:10.2214/AJR.22.28926

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