JAMA Logo Medical imaging is known to help detect and treat diseases in the early stage itself, but maybe it’s more beneficial than previously thought. According to a latest study, presence of tumor or infection can be detected in individuals going through medical imaging. During analysis, radiologists were seemingly able to indicate such threats in approximately 40 percent participants with the help of medical imaging.

While conducting the study, medical records of 1,426 volunteers undergoing an imaging procedure in 2004 were scrutinized. While a radiologist interpreted every image, an expert panel evaluated all incidental findings. Also a clinical action was triggered during a three-year follow-up period. Incidental finding was observed that 567 which formed a total of 39.8 percent study subjects. With progression in age, the threat of an incidental finding seemingly elevated. Experts noted that most incidental findings occurred in patients who were subjected to computed tomography (CT) scans of the abdomen and pelvic area in comparison to any other imaging procedure. The next most detections were possibly made in those who went through CT of the chest and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head.

Investigators quote, “An incidental finding in human subjects research is defined in a major consensus project as an observation ‘concerning an individual research participant that has potential clinical importance and is discovered in the course of conducting research, but is beyond the aims of the study. Numerous reports have detailed how the detection of an incidental finding can result in the early beneficial diagnosis of an unsuspected malignant neoplasm or aneurysm. However, others describe harm and excessive cost resulting from treatment of radiographically suspicious incidental findings. Moreover, clinical experience dictates that many incidental findings are of indeterminate clinical significance and generate uncertainty among both research participants and their physicians.”

With an incidental finding, Nicholas M. Orme, M.D., of Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn., and colleagues supposedly took clinical action for 35 participants who comprised 6.2 percent. From a total of 567 participants, the medical benefit or burden of these actions was unclear in 26 representing 4.6 percent. But medical benefit apparently proved clear for 6 patients who formed 1.1 percent and clear medical burden was reported by 3 patients comprising 0.5 percent. Authors concluded that imaging incidental findings are common in some forms of imaging examinations. Therefore such techniques can be possibly employed in diagnosing asymptomatic life-threatening disease without going through interventions for benign processes. The study findings may help scientists generate incidental findings and plan ways to manage them.

The study was published in the September 27 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.