A Randomized Study of Patient Risk Perception for Incidental Renal Findings on Diagnostic Imaging Tests

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Publication Date

February 2018




OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study is to assess differences in patient distress, risk perception, and treatment preferences for incidental renal findings with descriptive versus combined descriptive and numeric graphical risk information. MATERIALS AND METHODS: A randomized survey study was conducted for adult patients about to undergo outpatient imaging studies at a large urban academic institution. Two survey arms contained either descriptive or a combination of descriptive and numeric graphical risk information about three hypothetical incidental renal findings at CT: 2-cm (low risk) and 5-cm (high risk) renal tumors and a 2-cm (low risk) renal artery aneurysm. The main outcomes were patient distress, perceived risk (qualitative and quantitative), treatment preference, and valuation of lesion discovery. RESULTS: Of 374 patients, 299 participated (79.9% response rate). With inclusion of numeric and graphical, rather than only descriptive, risk information about disease progression for a 2-cm renal tumor, patients reported less worry (3.56 vs 4.12 on a 5-point scale; p < 0.001) and favored surgical consultation less often (29.3% vs 46.9%; p = 0.003). The proportion choosing surgical consultation for the 2-cm renal tumor decreased to a similar level as for the renal artery aneurysm with numeric risk information (29.3% [95% CI, 21.7-36.8%] and 27.9% [95% CI, 20.5-35.3%], respectively). Patients overestimated the absolute risk of adverse events regardless of risk information type, but significantly more so when given descriptive information only, and valued the discovery of lesions regardless of risk information type (range, 4.41-4.81 on a 5-point scale). CONCLUSION: Numeric graphical risk communication for patients about incidental renal lesions may facilitate accurate risk comprehension and support patients in informed decision making.