Variation in Reporting of Incidental Findings on Initial Lung Cancer Screening and Associations With Clinician Assessment

Anne C. Melzer, Bethlehem Atoma, Angela E. Fabbrini, Megan Campbell, Barbara A. Clothier, Steven S. Fu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose: The aim of this study was to quantify the distribution, frequency, and clinical significance of incidental findings (IFs) on initial lung cancer screening (LCS) and the association of report characteristics with subsequent assessment. Methods: Health records of patients undergoing initial LCS from 2015 to 2018 in the Minneapolis VA Health Care System were retrospectively reviewed for demographics, Lung CT Screening Reporting & Data System coding, IFs, and subsequent clinical assessment. IFs were considered potentially significant if they were likely to require any follow-up. High-risk significant IFs (SIFs) were potentially malignant. The primary outcome was the SIF being addressed. Outcomes were analyzed using a mixed-effects model. Results: Patients (n = 901) were primarily male (94.1%) smokers (62.1%) with a mean age of 65.2 years. IFs were extremely common (93.9%), with an average of 2.6 IFs per scan (n = 2,296). Seven hundred eighty-six IFs (34.2%) were deemed likely SIFs, of which 58 (7.4%) were high risk. Two hundred twenty-two (28.2%) were addressed by clinicians, of which 104 (13.2%) underwent testing. Reporting of SIFs varied among radiologists, with at least one SIF in the impression in 24% to 78% of low-dose CT studies with the S modifier, used to indicate the presence of a SIF, applied to 0% to 51% of reports. In the mutually adjusted model, radiologist recommendation (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 4.67; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.23-9.76), high-risk finding (adjusted OR, 4.35; 95% CI, 1.81-10.45), and reporting in the impression (adjusted OR, 2.58; 95% CI, 1.28-5.18) were associated with increased odds of the SIF's being addressed. Conclusions: Radiologists vary in their reporting of IFs on LCS. Further standardization of reporting of SIFs may improve this process, with the simultaneous goals of generating appropriate testing when needed and minimizing low-value care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)118-127
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of the American College of Radiology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023


  • Lung cancer screening
  • incidental findings
  • radiology reporting

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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