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What’s an incidental finding?

By Holly Brenza, health enews

A news service from AdvocateAuroraHealth

You’ve been experiencing chronic back pain, so your physician orders a CT scan to determine the cause. But the test results reveal something in your lungs – something unrelated to the initial reason for the test. You’re probably worried and wondering what happens next.

Known as an incidental finding, these masses or lesions are discovered during imaging tests like CTs and MRIs that are ordered for an unrelated reason.

“It’s actually common to pick up incidental findings like lung nodules on imaging that is done for other medical reasons,” explains Dr. Fatema Photowala, a pulmonologist with Advocate Medical Group in Aurora, Ill. “That’s because there is an increased amount of imaging performed for a multitude of reasons.”

When an incidental finding is discovered, such as a lung nodule, the physician who ordered the initial imaging will refer you to a pulmonologist for a follow-up or consultation appointment. The pulmonologist will review the imaging and determine if the size of the finding warrants further imaging and whether follow up is recommended.

“The initial step would be for the patient to get a chest CT. Based on criteria designed to address monitoring incidentally discovered lung nodules, follow-up imaging will be performed,” says Dr. Photowala.

She says most often, the incidental findings are benign based on their size.

“But there is a benefit to finding things like nodules so that we can pick up changes early with serial imaging and can intervene if necessary.”

This article originally appeared on health enews.

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