Potentially serious incidental findings on brain and body magnetic resonance imaging of apparently asymptomatic adults: systematic review and meta-analysis

Published on Nov 22, 2018in BMJ30.223
· DOI :10.1136/BMJ.K4577
Lorna Gibson32
Estimated H-index: 32
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh),
Laura Paul1
Estimated H-index: 1
(Glasgow Royal Infirmary)
+ 5 AuthorsCathie Sudlow68
Estimated H-index: 68
(Edin.: University of Edinburgh)
Abstract Objectives To determine prevalence and types of potentially serious incidental findings on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in apparently asymptomatic adults, describe factors associated with potentially serious incidental findings, and summarise information on follow-up and final diagnoses. Design Systematic review and meta-analyses. Data sources Citation searches of relevant articles and authors’ files in Medline and Embase (from inception to 25 April 2017). Review methods Eligible studies included prevalence and types of incidental findings detected among apparently asymptomatic adults undergoing MRI of the brain, thorax, abdomen, or brain and body. Data on study population and methods, prevalence and types of incidental findings, and final diagnoses were extracted. Pooled prevalence was estimated by random effects meta-analysis, and heterogeneity by τ 2 statistics. Main outcome measures Prevalence of potentially serious incidental findings on MRI of the brain, thorax, abdomen, and brain and body. Results Of 5905 retrieved studies, 32 (0.5%) met the inclusion criteria (n=27 643 participants). Pooled prevalence of potentially serious incidental findings was 3.9% (95% confidence interval 0.4% to 27.1%) on brain and body MRI, 1.4% (1.0% to 2.1%) on brain MRI, 1.3% (0.2% to 8.1%) on thoracic MRI, and 1.9% (0.3% to 12.0%) on abdominal MRI. Pooled prevalence rose after including incidental findings of uncertain potential seriousness (12.8% (3.9% to 34.3%), 1.7% (1.1% to 2.6%), 3.0% (0.8% to 11.3%), and 4.5% (1.5% to 12.9%), respectively). There was generally substantial heterogeneity among included studies. About half the potentially serious incidental findings were suspected malignancies (brain, 0.6% (95% confidence interval 0.4% to 0.9%); thorax, 0.6% (0.1% to 3.1%); abdomen, 1.3% (0.2% to 9.3%); brain and body, 2.3% (0.3% to 15.4%)). There were few informative data on potential sources of between-study variation or factors associated with potentially serious incidental findings. Limited data suggested that relatively few potentially serious incidental findings had serious final diagnoses (48/234, 20.5%). Conclusions A substantial proportion of apparently asymptomatic adults will have potentially serious incidental findings on MRI, but little is known of their health consequences. Systematic, long term follow-up studies are needed to better inform on these consequences and the implications for policies on feedback of potentially serious incidental findings. Systematic review registration Prospero CRD42016029472.
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