Objectives: To report the frequencies of potentially relevant incidental findings in the general adult population and to develop a protocol for their management in whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (wb-MRI).
Methods: A total of 2,500 adult subjects (1,271 women, 1,229 men; mean age 53 years) from the population-based Study of Health in Pomerania underwent standardised wb-MRI. Additionally, 1,129 participants received contrast-enhanced cardiac MRI, 619 men received MR angiography and 544 women received MR mammography. Two independent residents performed first-line reading. A third reader resolved disagreements. An interdisciplinary advisory board decided about disclosure.
Results: There were 1,330 incidental findings of potential clinical relevance in 904 subjects (36.2 %). Nine findings (0.4 %) required immediate referral. In total, 1,052 findings (79.1 %) were confirmed by the advisory board and disclosed to 787 participants (31.5 %). The abdominal organs (6.8 %), the urinary tract (6.8 %) and the skeletal system (6.0 %) were affected most often. While 383 findings (36.4 %) were indicated as benign and 62 (5.9 %) as malignant, most abnormalities, 607 (57.7 %), were of an unclear nature.
Conclusions: Potentially relevant incidental findings are very common in wb-MRI research but the nature of these findings remains unclear in most cases. This requires dedicated management to protect subjects' welfare and research integrity.