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Incidental findings pose ethical dilemma for researchers

brain_scan_092810.jpg

Call it curiosity (or hypochondria), but having diagnostic imaging tests has always appealed to me. In my mind, the scans could yield new insights into old aches and pains. But, of course, physician friends always advise the results might lead to more questions than answers.

So I was particularly interested to read a study (subscription required) published yesterday in the Archives of Internal Medicine that examined the records of 1,426 people who had a CT or MRI scan as part of a research project and found nearly 40 percent resulted in an incidental finding. Findings also showed that of the patients with incidentalomas only 6.2 percent needed clinical action.

The findings have a number of implications for clinical researchers, wrote study authors:

Results of this study demonstrate that specific imaging modalities, body regions, and advanced age increase the likelihood of generating an [incidental finding] during the course of imaging in clinical research. Research imaging studies at high risk for generating [incidental findings] can be identified. These data should inform researchers, radiology departments, and [institutional review boards] about the risk of an [incidental findings] and subsequent clinical action and can be used in creating management plans for research imaging [incidental findings].

Timely, routine evaluation of research images by radiologists can result in identification of [incidental findings] in a substantial number of cases that can result in significant medical benefit to a small number of patients.

Previously: Incidentalomas
Photo by A of DooM

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