Radiology reports for incidental thyroid nodules on CT and MRI: high variability across subspecialties.
BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Variability in radiologists' reporting styles and recommendations for incidental thyroid nodules can lead to confusion among clinicians and may contribute to inconsistent patient care. Our aim was to describe reporting practices of radiologists for incidental thyroid nodules seen on CT and MR imaging and to determine factors that influence reporting styles. MATERIALS AND METHODS: This is a retrospective study of patients with incidental thyroid nodules reported on CT and MR imaging between January and December 2011, identified by text search for "thyroid nodule" in all CT and MR imaging reports. The studies included CT and MR imaging scans of the neck, spine, and chest. Radiology reports were divided into those that mentioned the incidental thyroid nodules only in the "Findings" section versus those that reported the incidental thyroid nodules in the "Impression" section as well, because this latter reporting style gives more emphasis to the finding. Univariate and multivariate analyses were performed to identify radiologist, patient, and nodule characteristics that influenced reporting styles. RESULTS: Three hundred seventy-five patients met the criterion of having incidental thyroid nodules. One hundred thirty-eight (37%) patients had incidental thyroid nodules reported in the "Impression" section. On multivariate analysis, only radiologists' divisions and nodule size were associated with reporting in "Impression." Chest radiologists and neuroradiologists were more likely to report incidental thyroid nodules in the "Impression" section than their abdominal imaging colleagues, and larger incidental thyroid nodules were more likely to be reported in "Impression" (P ≤ .03). Seventy-three percent of patients with incidental thyroid nodules of ≥20 mm were reported in the "Impression" section, but higher variability in reporting was seen for incidental thyroid nodules measuring 10-14 mm and 15-19 mm, which were reported in "Impression" for 61% and 50% of patients, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: Reporting practices for incidental thyroid nodules detected on CT and MR imaging are predominantly influenced by nodule size and the radiologist's subspecialty. Reporting was highly variable for nodules measuring 10-19 mm; this finding can be partially attributed to different reporting styles among radiology subspecialty divisions. The variability demonstrated in this study further underscores the need to develop CT and MR imaging practice guidelines with the goal of standardizing reporting of incidental thyroid nodules and thereby potentially improving the consistency and quality of patient care.
Grady, AT; Sosa, JA; Tanpitukpongse, TP; Choudhury, KR; Gupta, RT; Hoang, JK
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