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AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2018 Dec;211(6):1278-1282. doi: 10.2214/AJR.18.19885. Epub 2018 Oct 9.

Downstream Costs Associated With Incidental Pancreatic Cysts Detected at MRI.

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1 Department of Radiology, NYU Langone Medical Center, 660 First Ave, New York, NY 10016.
2 Hackensack Radiology Group, River Edge, NJ.



The purpose of this study is to assess downstream costs associated with pancreatic cysts incidentally detected at MRI.


Two hundred patients with an incidental pancreatic cyst detected at MRI were identified. Downstream events (imaging, office visits, endoscopic ultrasound-guided fine-needle aspiration, or chemotherapy) were identified from the electronic medical record. Radiologists' recommendations and ordering physician management were classified relative to the American College of Radiology (ACR) incidental findings committee recommendations. Costs for the downstream events were estimated using national Medicare rates and a 3% annual discount rate. Mean costs were computed.


Estimated downstream costs averaged $460 per cyst ($872 per cyst with any follow-up testing). Nine patients had a clinically relevant outcome during follow-up (increase in cyst size, development of new cyst, or development of pancreatic cancer). Downstream cost per cyst with a clinically relevant outcome was $1364. Costs were greater when ordering physicians overmanaged ($842) versus when they were adherent ($631) or undermanaged ($252) relative to radiologist recommendation. Although costs were $252 when ordering physicians undermanaged relative to ACR incidental findings committee recommendations, costs were similar when ordering physicians were adherent ($811) or overmanaged ($845) relative to ACR incidental findings committee recommendations. Costs did not vary significantly according to whether radiologists recommended follow-up testing ($317-$491) or whether radiologist recommendations were adherent, undermanaged, or overmanaged relative to ACR incidental findings committee recommendations ($344-$528).


The findings suggest a role for targeted educational efforts, collaborative partnerships, and other initiatives to foster greater adherence to radiologist recommendations, including critical test results notification systems, automated reminders within electronic health systems, and stronger language within radiology reports when no follow-up testing is recommended.


MRI; incidental findings; pancreatic cyst; utilization

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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