Management Strategies to Promote Follow-Up Care for Incidental Findings: A Scoping Review

J Am Coll Radiol. 2021 Apr;18(4):566-579. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2020.11.006. Epub 2020 Dec 2.


Background: Incidentalomas, or unexpectedly identified masses, are frequently identified in diagnostic imaging studies. Incidentalomas may require timely follow-up care to determine if they are benign, disease-causing, or malignant lesions; however, many incidentalomas do not receive diagnostic workup. The most effective strategies to manage incidentalomas and optimal metrics for judging the efficacy of these strategies remain unclear.

Objective: To identify management strategies used to promote guideline-concordant follow-up for incidentalomas and commonly reported performance metrics associated with these strategies.

Data sources: We searched peer-reviewed literature for incidentaloma management studies published between 2003 and 2020.

Data extraction and synthesis: Data extraction included anatomical location, imaging modality, clinical setting, management strategy characteristics, and metrics used to assess the management strategy. Eligible studies were analyzed qualitatively to describe strategies and metrics.

Results: In all, 15 studies met inclusion criteria. Four types of interventions designed to promote guideline-concordant follow-up care for incidentalomas were identified: (1) physical or verbal guideline reminders (n = 3); (2) electronic guideline references (n = 4); (3) enhanced radiology templates (n = 3); (4) restructured clinical and communication pathways (n = 5). Strategy efficacy was assessed by measuring rates of patients who received recommended follow-up care (n = 6) or had care recommendations documented in clinical records (n = 5). Few studies measured diagnostic outcomes associated with incidentalomas.

Conclusions: Most management strategies target changes in radiologists' behavior. Few studies address barriers to improving incidentaloma follow-up from interpretation to patient education of findings and care delivery. Hybrid effectiveness-implementation studies are needed to better address workflow barriers and rigorously evaluate care delivery outcomes.

Keywords: Guideline-concordant; incidental findings; management strategies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aftercare*
  • Communication
  • Diagnostic Imaging*
  • Humans
  • Incidental Findings
  • Physical Examination