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Wayne MT, Prescott HC, Arenberg DA. Prevalence and consequences of non-adherence to an evidence-based approach for incidental pulmonary nodules. PLoS ONE. 2022 Sep 9; 17(9):e0274107.
IMPORTANCE: Distinguishing benign from malignant pulmonary nodules is challenging. Evidence-based guidelines exist, but their impact on patient-centered outcomes is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To understand if the evaluation of incidental pulmonary nodules that follows an evidence-based management strategy is associated with fewer invasive procedures for benign lesions and/or fewer delays in cancer diagnosis. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: Large academic medical center. PARTICIPANTS: Adults ( = 18 years age) with an incidental pulmonary nodule discovered between January 2012 and December 2014. Patients with calcified nodules, prior nodules, prior diagnosis of cancer, high suspicion for pulmonary metastasis, or limited life expectancy were excluded. EXPOSURE: Nodule management strategy (pre-specified based on evidence-based practices). OUTCOME: Composite of any invasive procedure for a benign nodule or delay in diagnosis in patients with cancer ( > 3 month delay once probability of cancer was > 15%). RESULTS: Of 314 patients that met inclusion criteria, median age was 61, 46.5% were men, and 66.5% had current or former tobacco use. The mean nodule size was 10.3 mm, mean probability of cancer was 11.8%, and 14.3% of nodules were malignant. Evaluation followed an evidence-based strategy in 245 patients (78.0%), and deviated in 69 patients (22%). The composite outcome occurred in 26 (8.3%) patients. Among patients whose nodule evaluation was concordant with an evidence-based evaluation, 6.1% (15/245) experienced the composite outcome versus 15.9% (11/69) of patients with an evaluation that deviated from evidence-based recommendations (P < 0.01). CONCLUSIONS AND RELEVANCE: At a large academic medical center, more than 1 in 5 patients with an incidental pulmonary nodule underwent evaluation that deviated from evidence-based practice recommendations. Nodule evaluation that deviated from an evidence-based strategy was associated with biopsy of benign lesions and delays in cancer diagnosis, suggesting a need to improve guideline uptake.