Original Research

Follow Up of Incidental High-Risk Pulmonary Nodules on Computed Tomography Pulmonary Angiography at Care Transitions


BACKGROUND: Computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) detects incidental findings that require follow-up. In just over 50% of cases, those incidental findings are pulmonary nodules. Fleischner guidelines recommend that patients with nodules that have a high risk of malignancy should undergo CT follow-up within 3-12 months.

OBJECTIVE: We examined the proportion of patients with pulmonary nodules requiring follow up who received repeat imaging within six weeks of the time frame recommended by the radiologist.

DESIGN: This retrospective cohort study included all patients who underwent CTPA in the emergency department and inpatient settings at three teaching hospitals in Toronto, Canada between September 1, 2014, and August 31, 2015. Natural language processing software was applied to a linked radiology information system to identify all CTPAs that contained pulmonary nodules. Using manual review and prespecified exclusion criteria, we generated a cohort with possible new lung malignancy eligible for follow-up imaging; then we reviewed available health records to determine whether follow-up had occurred.

RESULTS: Of the 1,910 CTPAs performed over the study period, 674 (35.3%) contained pulmonary nodules. Of the 259 patients with new nodules eligible for follow-up imaging, 65 received an explicit suggestion for follow-up by radiology (25.1%). Of these 65 patients, 35 (53.8%) did not receive repeat imaging within the recommended time frame. Explicit mention that follow-up was required in the discharge summary (P = .03), attending an outpatient follow-up visit (P < .001), and younger age (P = .03) were associated with receiving timely follow-up imaging.

CONCLUSIONS: Over 50% of patients with new high-risk pulmonary nodules detected incidentally on CTPA did not receive timely follow-up imaging.

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