Clinical question: How often are incidentally found pulmonary nodules and instructions for follow-up included in the discharge summary?
Background: Lung nodules are frequent incidental findings on imaging, but it is unclear whether patients are subsequently receiving the recommended follow-up.
Study design: Retrospective cohort study.
Synopsis: The authors identified 7,173 patients who had undergone abdominal CT scans during their admission and reviewed charts of 402 patients who had incidentally found pulmonary nodules identified on the scans. For each of the patients, discharge summaries were evaluated to determine whether they made reference to the nodules and whether follow-up instructions were included. Of the 208 patients noted to have nodules requiring follow-up, only 48 (23%) had discharge summaries that mentioned the nodules. Factors associated with including the nodules in the discharge summary were the radiologist recommending further surveillance, radiologist including the nodule in the summary heading of the report, and being on a medical as opposed to a surgical service. The authors concluded that systems-based approaches to incidentally found lung nodules are needed to ensure adequate follow-up.
Bottom line: Incidentally found lung nodules are often not included in discharge documentation and therefore may not receive the recommended follow-up.
Citation: Bates R, Plooster C, Croghan I, et al. Incidental pulmonary nodules reported on CT abdominal imaging: Frequency and factors affecting inclusion in the hospital discharge summary. J Hosp Med. 2017;6:454-7.
Dr. Herscher is assistant professor, division of hospital medicine, Icahn School of Medicine of the Mount Sinai Health System.