Some people had more than one condition.
The researchers had expected to find some people with undiagnosed infarcts, because blood vessel changes are common in older adults, according to van der Lugt, but "we were very surprised to find such a high frequency of other findings such as aneurysm and meningiomas, as previous studies reported much lower frequencies."
He said it's especially important for researchers conducting brain MRIs to be aware that they may have a significant number of incidental findings, so these findings aren't attributed to a study treatment, for example.
Van der Lugt said that general screening for these conditions wouldn't be recommended, because it's not yet clear if these asymptomatic conditions should be treated.
Dr. Arno Fried, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Hackensack University Medical Center in New Jersey, agreed.
"Screening would probably create too many problems unless someone was experiencing specific symptoms. If someone has recurrent headaches, it may be worthwhile to screen with MRI just to make sure it's not a tumor creating the headaches."
He said neurosurgeons are often presented with incidental findings, because scanning technology is so good.
"The problem is what to do about incidental findings," he noted. "What's most important is to correlate clinical status with what we see on the scan. Most of the time, we won't do anything about those incidental findings. Some people will be asymptomatic forever."
Fried suggested that people, "Don't panic when an incidental finding is seen. Many people don't need surgery." He said that while a brain tumor may sound scary, many that are small and aren't causing symptoms don't need to be removed. Aneurysms may require treatment, but if they do, it's generally better that it was discovered early.
The bottom line, said Fried, is that "technology and i
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