Incidental findings detected on abdomino-pelvic multidetector computed tomography performed in the acute setting

Am J Emerg Med. 2014 Jan;32(1):36-9. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2013.09.019.


Objective: The objective of the study is to determine the prevalence and significance of incidental findings in patients with a chief complaint of abdominal pain presenting to the emergency department (ED) who received abdomino-pelvic multidetector computed tomography.

Materials and methods: We conducted a retrospective review of data collected for 290 patients over a period of 5 months (April to September 2012) from 3 different university-affiliated EDs. Two board-certified radiologists reviewed the original images independently and recorded the incidental findings. These findings were classified as benign, indeterminate, and worrisome. Only those findings present in the original report were included in the study. If an indeterminate or worrisome incidental finding was identified, the patient's medical records were reviewed to determine if the incidental finding was previously known, whether recommendation was made for further evaluation, and whether this recommendation led to any change in management.

Results: We identified 283 incidental findings—144 benign (51%), 114 indeterminate (40%), and 25 worrisome (9%) findings. A statistically significant difference was observed in the percentage of patients who experienced a change in management among those who received recommendations as compared with those who did not, in both previously known (87% vs 22%, P=.001) and previously unknown (70% vs 2%, P=.001) indeterminate findings.

Conclusion: Unlike benign incidental findings, indeterminate and worrisome findings frequently alter the course of management. Recommendation from radiologists appears to significantly contribute to the management of indeterminate incidental findings.

MeSH terms

  • Abdomen
  • Abdominal Pain / diagnostic imaging*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings*
  • Multidetector Computed Tomography* / statistics & numerical data
  • Pelvis / diagnostic imaging
  • Prevalence
  • Radiography, Abdominal / statistics & numerical data
  • Retrospective Studies