How to deal with incidentally detected pulmonary nodules less than 10mm in size on CT in a healthy person

Lung Cancer. 2008 May;60(2):151-9. doi: 10.1016/j.lungcan.2008.01.020. Epub 2008 Mar 21.


The high frequency of non-calcified pulmonary nodules (NCN) <10mm incidentally detected on a multi-detector CT (MDCT) of the chest raises the question of how clinicians and radiologists should deal with these nodules. Management algorithms for solitary pulmonary nodules >10mm do not carry across to sub-centimeter lesions. Purpose of this review is to provide a 10-step approach for routinely detected sub-centimeter NCN on a MDCT in healthy persons in order to be able to make an optimal discrimination between benign and malignant NCNs. Recommendations are primarily based on individual cancer risk, the presence or absence of calcifications and nodule size. In nodules >4-5mm nodule consistency, margin and shape should be taken into account. Next steps in the nodule evaluation are the assessment of localization, nodule number, presence or absence of growth and volume doubling time. Growth is defined as a volume doubling time of 400 days or less, based on volumetry. For nodules <4mm, a follow-up CT at 12 months is recommended in high risk persons, whilst for low-risk persons no follow-up is needed. If no growth is observed at 12 months, no further follow-up is required. For solid, smooth or attached indeterminate NCN between 5 and 10mm we recommend an annual repeat scan, whilst for purely intra-parenchymal nodules a 3-month repeat scan should be made to assess growth. Growing lesions with a volume doubling time <400 days require further work-up and diagnosis, otherwise an annual repeat scan to assess growth is recommended.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings*
  • Risk Factors
  • Solitary Pulmonary Nodule / pathology*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed