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PLoS One. 2014 Nov 10;9(11):e112162. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0112162. eCollection 2014.

Implementing direct access to low-dose computed tomography in general practice--method, adaption and outcome.

Author information

Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark; Section for General Medical Practice, Department of Public Health, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.
Department of Respiratory Diseases and Allergy, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.
Department of Radiology, Aarhus University Hospital, Aarhus, Denmark.
Research Centre for Cancer Diagnosis in Primary Care, Research Unit for General Practice, Aarhus University, Aarhus, Denmark.



Early detection of lung cancer is crucial as the prognosis depends on the disease stage. Chest radiographs has been the principal diagnostic tool for general practitioners (GPs), but implies a potential risk of false negative results, while computed tomography (CT) has a higher sensitivity. The aim of this study was to describe the implementation of direct access to low-dose CT (LDCT) from general practice.


We conducted a cohort study nested in a randomised study. A total of 119 general practices with 266 GPs were randomised into two groups. Intervention GPs were offered direct access to chest LDCT combined with a Continuing Medical Education (CME) meeting on lung cancer diagnosis.


During a 19-month period, 648 patients were referred to LDCT (0.18/1000 adults on GP list/month). Half of the patients needed further diagnostic work-up, and 15 (2.3%, 95% CI: 1.3-3.8%) of the patients had lung cancer; 60% (95% CI: 32.3-83.7%) in a localised stage. The GP referral rate was 61% higher for CME participants compared to non-participants.


Of all patients referred to LDCT, 2.3% were diagnosed with lung cancer with a favourable stage distribution. Half of the referred patients needed additional diagnostic work-up. There was an association between participation in CME and use of CT scan. The proportion of cancers diagnosed through the usual fast-track evaluation was 2.2 times higher in the group of CME-participating GPs. The question remains if primary care case-finding with LDCT is a better option for patients having signs and symptoms indicating lung cancer than a screening program. Whether open access to LDCT may provide earlier diagnosis of lung cancer is yet unknown and a randomised trial is required to assess any effect on outcome.


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