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Eur Radiol. 2013 May;23(5):1343-51. doi: 10.1007/s00330-012-2723-8. Epub 2012 Dec 13.

Psychosocial consequences and severity of disclosed incidental findings from whole-body MRI in a general population study.

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Study of Health in Pomerania /KEF, University Medicine of Greifswald, Institute for Community Medicine, Walther Rathenau Str. 48, 17475 Greifswald, Germany.



Little is known about the psychosocial impact and subjective interpretation of communicated incide ntal findings from whole-body magnetic resonance imaging (wb-MRI). This was addressed with this general population study.


Data was based on the Study of Health in Pomerania (SHIP), Germany. SHIP comprised a 1.5-T wb-MRI examination. A postal survey was conducted among the first 471 participants, aged 23-84 years, who received a notification about incidental findings (response 86.0 %, n = 405). The severity of incidental findings was assessed from the participants' and radiologists' perspective.


In total, 394 participants (97.3 %) wanted to learn about their health by undergoing wb-MRI. Strong distress while waiting for a potential notification of an incidental finding was reported by 40 participants (9.9 %), whereas 116 (28.6 %) reported moderate to severe psychological distress thereafter. Strong disagreement was noted between the subjective and radiological evaluation of the findings' severity (kappa = 0.02). Almost all participants (n = 389, 96.0 %) were very satisfied with their examination.


Despite the high satisfaction of most participants, there were numerous adverse consequences concerning the communication of incidental findings and false expectations about the likely potential benefits of whole-body-MRI.


• Disclosed incidental findings from MRI may lead to substantial psychosocial distress. • Subjective and radiological evaluations of incidental findings' severity differ strongly. • Disclosing incidental findings is strongly endorsed by study volunteers. • Study volunteers tend to have false expectations about potential benefits from MRI. • Minimizing stress in study volunteers should be a key aim in MRI research.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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