Improving Incidental Finding Documentation in Trauma Patients Amidst Poor Access to Follow-up Care

Marguerite W. Spruce, Jessica A. Bowman, Alice J. Wilson, Joseph M. Galante

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Background: Incidental findings (IFs) are common among injured patients and create a complex problem with no standardized solution. Materials and methods: This is a retrospective review of adult trauma patients admitted to a level I trauma center from January to May 2017. IFs from abdominal, chest, and neck imaging were categorized based on previously published guidelines focused on clinically significant IFs. Patient demographics related to access to care were collected. Outcome measures included documentation and patient notification of IFs. A univariate analysis was performed to identify characteristics that were associated with these outcomes. Results: Of 1671 patients, 682 met inclusion criteria, and 418 (61.3%) had any IF based on the a priori categorization scheme. In total, 67 (9.8%) were homeless, 58 (8.5%) had no health insurance, and 115 (16.9%) had no established primary care provider prior to admission. Documentation of IFs was included in discharge summaries and instructions 76.5% and 40.2% of the time, respectively. Physicians were statistically more likely to appropriately document IFs when radiologists provided specific recommendations. Transfer to another hospital service prior to discharge and discharge to another acute care facility were associated with reduced rates of successful documentation. No factors significantly affected documentation of patient notification. Conclusions: Trauma patients are at risk for poor access to follow-up care of IFs. Expanding IF-specific guidelines, collaborating with radiologists to facilitate their inclusion in reports, and ensuring that IFs are part of patient hand-offs could provide systematic methods of improving their documentation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)62-68
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Surgical Research
StatePublished - Apr 2020


  • Access to care
  • Homeless
  • Incidental findings
  • Insurance
  • Trauma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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