Medical studies often reveal far more information about a participant than researchers seek. So, extraneous information is often ignored. But what happens when researchers notice an unexpected mass in a brain scan or threatening clots in a computed tomography (CT) image? The ethics are still fuzzy about how much responsibility—and freedom—medical researchers should have in informing subjects or their doctors if something unsought is revealed in the course of an imaging study.
A new analysis found that about 40 percent of research imaging scans completed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., included these so-called incidental findings. Very few (6.2 percent) ended up receiving clinical follow-up, but some imaging techniques, such as abdomen and pelvic CT scans, sent nearly 10 percent of participants on for additional assessment after abnormal results. The scans study was published online September 27 in Archives of Internal Medicine.