Abnormal imaging results don't necessarily mean patients need follow-up exams, treatment

Does society have a habit of believing that all medical tests are flawless? Unfortunately, yes, according to Danielle Ofri, MD, PhD, an internist at Bellevue Hospital and the New York University School of Medicine. But she, along with her colleagues, believes that false-positive or abnormal result in an imaging test doesn’t necessarily mean patients need to worry or follow-up with their physician, according to a recent article by the Washington Post. 

“Lab standards are not the perfect black and white that patients and society expect. There are very few things in medicine that aren’t ambiguous,” Ofri told The Washington Post. “Being comfortable with uncertainty is a necessity.” 

MRI or CT scans will find medical anomalies when patients undergo testing for something completely related 20 percent of the time—immediately prompting a patient request for a follow-up appointment, explained internist Ashish Jha, MD, MPH, director of the Harvard Global Health Institute at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. 

To address this issue, Ofri advised doctors change how they discuss issues with patients, including abnormal findings.

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