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J Am Coll Radiol. 2011 Dec;8(12):848-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jacr.2011.08.009.

Incidental findings in brain MRI research: what do we owe our subjects?

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Athinoula A. Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School Boston, Massachusetts 02129, USA.


Concern regarding incidental findings on brain MRI studies has been increasing with the growing use of MRI as tool for scientific investigation. In this article, the authors provide an overview of possible approaches to address incidental findings. Incidental findings are surprisingly common (5%-20% of all examinations), although the percentage of clinically serious abnormalities is low (0.3%-3.4%). At present, there is no consensus concerning the optimal strategy on how to deal with incidental findings, in particular how to fulfill ethical responsibilities appropriately within the constraints of available resources. There are a variety of responses possible, and currently, reasonable guidelines exist for formulating a plan tailored to the needs of each institution that will meet the reasonable expectations of subjects participating in brain research studies.

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