Clinically serious abnormalities found incidentally at MR imaging of the brain: data from the Cardiovascular Health Study

Radiology. 1997 Jan;202(1):41-6. doi: 10.1148/radiology.202.1.8988190.


Purpose: To determine the prevalence of clinically serious findings unrelated to stroke on cranial magnetic resonance (MR) images in a population of community-dwelling elderly people.

Materials and methods: Neuroradiologists reviewed MR images of 3,672 people aged 65 years and older who were enrolled in a longitudinal, population-based study of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular disease. The neuroradiologists alerted MR imaging field centers about potentially serious abnormalities. Clinical information was obtained from clinical examinations performed before MR imaging, hospital discharge summaries, and the field centers at which MR imaging was performed.

Results: On 3,672 image sets, 64 (1.74%) clinically serious abnormalities were found. Among the presumptive diagnoses were 19 meningiomas (0.52%), six pituitary adenomas (0.16%), five cavernous malformations (0.14%), eight vascular stenoses (0.22%), four aneurysms (0.11%), two intraventricular masses (0.05%), two subdural fluid collections (0.05%), and two other tumors (0.05%). Only nine participants with these abnormalities required surgery. All but one of the meningiomas were in women, and the prevalence of the tumor decreased with increasing age.

Conclusion: Physicians should be alert to the possible presence of clinically serious conditions in otherwise asymptomatic elderly individuals.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain / pathology
  • Brain Diseases / complications
  • Brain Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / complications*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging*
  • Male