Edinburgh Imaging

MSc projects 1617 006

Incidental findings for a population based brain MRI study in healthy volunteers.

  • Background: The detection of incidental findings (IF) of clinical significance during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research brain scans of healthy volunteers happens in approximately 3% of cases. Detecting IF during research can have not only major health implications for the participant but methods of follow-up and how these are dealt with ethically need to be monitored and audited. 
  • Methods: 252 participants and 11 pilot run-through scans giving a total of 263 people (119 male (45%) and 144 female (55%)) were scanned on a 3.0T scanner using a research protocol which included high resolution structural scans and fMRI tasks. All scans were reported by a consultant neuro-radiologist and the standardised report assessed for IF in the following categories (1) normal, no IF, (2) IF of no clinical significance, and (3) IF of potential clinical significance needing appropriate follow-up.
  • Results: Overall there were 140 incidental findings (IF) in 129 participants. Of the 10 participants (3.8% of total scanned) categorised as 3 needing clinical follow-up the most common findings were aneurysms (4 participants, 1.5%). Of the category 3 patients, 7 were referred to specialists and 3 reports sent to GP with no further action required. Of the category 2 (119 participants, 45% of total) the most common reported IF was sinus disease affecting 77/119 (65%) of this group and 29.1% of the total participants scanned. Vascular anomalies (15 or 5.7% of total) were the next most common find.
  • Conclusion: 3.8% of our total study participants had potentially clinically significant IF which is in line with what is being reported in other similar studies. A high number of IF are recorded (129/263 participants or 49%) overall but it is essential to concentrate on what is clinically significant. Our current reporting and follow-up methods seem robust and appropriate.
Project type:
  • Analysis of existing data
Imaging keywords:
Application / disease keywords:
  • Incidental findings (IF)


  • 16-17