Use of a clinical pathway to manage unsuspected radiographic findings

William E. Holden, David M. Lewinsohn, Molly L. Osborne, Chris Griffin, Ann Spencer, Carol Duncan, Mark E. Deffebach

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Study objectives: To describe our 5-year experience with a clinical pathway used to ensure the timely communication and evaluation of unsuspected radiologic findings (URFs) noted on clinically requested chest imaging. Design: Prospective data collection on clinical practice. Setting: Academically affiliated Veterans Affairs medical center. Participants: Pulmonary physicians, nurses, and radiologists. Results:. Over a period of 5 years, 1,629 URFs were referred to the pathway (from chest radiographs, 1,359 [83.4%]; from CT scans, 270 [16.6%]). Most URFs (78%) were nodules, with a specific diagnosis made in one third of URFs, and with a specific diagnosis thought to be clinically significant in another one third of URFs. The most common diagnosis was neoplasm, with over two thirds of these diagnoses being lung cancer. One third of lung cancers detected were either stage 1 or 2, with 1 in 17 of all URFs being stage IA lung cancer. The cost of the pathway was estimated at $28,600 per year. Conclusions: URFs noted on chest imaging are frequently clinically significant, and a systematic approach to managing URFs, such as a clinical pathway, can significantly improve care in a large teaching hospital.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1760
Number of pages8
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2004
Externally publishedYes


  • Chest radiograph
  • Clinical pathway
  • Lung cancer
  • Lung nodule
  • Radiographic findings
  • Radiology
  • Radiology information systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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