Incidental Abnormal Radiological Finding

An incidental abnormal radiologic finding is a very small mass or scar tissue, detected anywhere in the body, unrelated to the reason for your visit. With newer imaging tests and technologies, it is becoming more common to detect small masses and tissue abnormalities. It is important for you to work with your caregiver because it can sometimes be related to undiagnosed illness or other symptoms. Most often however, the finding is not causing symptoms and is not a cause for concern.


Abnormal radiologic findings are often located in the kidneys or lungs, but they can also be found in the heart, liver, breasts, brain, gallbladder, uterus and other surrounding organs and tissues. 

There are many types of masses and tissue abnormalities that can be detected during an imaging test. These may include: 

  • Lesions – changes in tissue due to infection, tissue death, or trauma.

  • Cysts – a sac filled with fluid, crystals, or some other substance.

  • Tumors – non-cancerous or cancerous solid formation.

You may hear medical terms, such as, "pulmonary nodule" (a small mass in the lung) or "renal mass" (mass in the kidney). Ask your caregiver if these terms apply to your findings.


There are many possible causes of incidental radiologic findings. Your caregiver will determine whether it requires additional screening tests, diagnostic tests, treatments, or referral to a surgeon. Generally, very small tissue changes or masses will not require any follow up testing. Much research has been done in this area. These very small abnormalities are considered low risk of becoming a problem in the future.

Depending on the size and appearance of the finding, your caregiver may recommend additional testing. Additional testing may also be recommended if you have certain risk factors or medical conditions that increase your risk of related problems. It is a good idea to have additional testing if you have other symptoms or concerns. Sometimes, these early findings can give you a chance at early treatment and avoid problems in the future.


Tests and exams may be a one-time screening or periodic follow-up. Periodic follow-up will help your caregiver determine whether the abnormality is growing and becoming a concern. Tests may include: 

  • Physical examination.

  • Blood tests.

  • Urine tests.

  • Imaging tests, such as abdominal ultrasound, CT scan, or MRI.

  • Biopsy.


Treatment varies, depending on the cause, location, size and appearance of the finding. Treatment will also depend on your age and underlying conditions or symptoms. Sometimes treatment is not necessary at all. However, treatment may include:

  • Watchful waiting with periodic examination and testing.

  • Treatments to reduce the size of the abnormality.

  • Surgical or biopsy removal of the abnormality.

  • Additional treatments to address any underlying conditions.


  • See your caregiver for follow up examination and testing as directed. It is important that you schedule appointments as directed.

  • Keep calm. Your caregiver will let you know if this is a routine follow up, or if there is a reason for concern. Remember, early detection can be very beneficial to you.

  • Follow all of your caregiver's aftercare instructions related to the reason for your visit.