The imaging evaluation of a solitary pulmonary nodule is complex. Management decisions are based on clinical history, size and appearance of the nodule, and feasibility of obtaining a tissue diagnosis. The most reliable imaging features are those that are indicative of benignancy, such as a benign pattern of calcification and periodic follow-up with computed tomography for 2 years showing no growth. Fine-needle aspiration biopsy and core biopsy are important procedures that may obviate surgery if there is a specific benign diagnosis from the procedure. In using the various imaging and diagnostic modalities described in this review, one should strive to not only identify small malignant tumors--where resection results in high survival rates--but also spare patients with benign disease from undergoing unnecessary surgery.
(c) RSNA, 2006.