Risk stratification of indeterminate pulmonary nodules.


Lung cancer remains the leading cause of cancer-related death in the United States, with poor overall 5-year survival. Early detection and diagnosis are key to survival as demonstrated in lung cancer screening trials. However, with increasing implementation of screening guidelines and use of computed tomography, there has been a sharp rise in the incidence of indeterminate pulmonary nodules (IPNs). Risk stratification of IPNs, particularly those in the intermediate-risk category, remains challenging in clinical practice. Individual risk factors, imaging characteristics, biomarkers, and prediction models are currently used to assist in risk stratifying patients, but such strategies remain suboptimal. This review focuses on established risk stratification methods, current areas of research, and future directions.

The multitude of yearly incidental and screening-detected IPNs, its management-related healthcare costs, and risk of invasive procedures provides a strong rationale for risk stratification efforts. The development of new molecular and imaging biomarkers to discriminate benign from malignant lung nodules shows great promise. Yet, risk stratification methods need integration into the diagnostic workflow and await validation in prospective, biomarker-driven clinical trials.

Novel biomarkers and new imaging analysis, including radiomics and deep-learning methods, have been developed to optimize the risk stratification of IPNs. While promising, additional validation and clinical studies are needed before they can be part of routine clinical practice.

  • Kammer MN
  • Massion P
  • Paez R
PubMed ID
Appears In
Curr Opin Pulm Med, 2021, 27 (4)