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Incidental pulmonary nodules on cardiac computed tomography: prognosis and use

BACKGROUND: Small asymptomatic lung nodules are found frequently in the course of cardiac computed tomography (CT) scanning. However, the utility of assessing and reporting incidental findings in healthy, asymptomatic subjects is unknown. METHODS: The sample comprised 1023 60- to 69-year-old subjects free of clinical cardiovascular disease and cancer who participated in the Atherosclerotic Disease, VAscular functioN and genetiC Epidemiology Study. All subjects underwent cardiac CT for determination of coronary calcium between 2001 and 2004, and the first 459 subjects were assessed for incidental pulmonary findings. We used health plan clinical databases to ascertain 24-month health care use and clinical outcomes. RESULTS: Noncalcified pulmonary nodules were reported in 81 of 459 subjects (18%). Chest CT was performed on 78% of participants in the 24 months after notification, compared with 2.5% in the previous 24 months. Chest x-ray use increased from 28% to 49%. The mean number of chest CT scans per subject was 1.3 (range, 0-5). Although no malignant lesions were diagnosed in the group who had pulmonary findings read, 1 lung cancer case was diagnosed in the group who did not have lung findings read. Among the 63 participants followed up by CT, the original lesion was not identified in 22 participants (35%), the lesion had decreased or remained stable in 39 participants (62%), and there was interval growth in 2 participants (3%). CONCLUSION: Reporting noncalcified pulmonary nodules resulted in substantial rescanning that overwhelmingly revealed resolution or stability of pulmonary nodules, arguing for benign processes.

Authors: Iribarren C; Hlatky MA; Chandra M; Fair JM; Rubin GD; Go AS; Burt JR; Fortmann SP

Am J Med. 2008 Nov;121(11):989-96.

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