BackgroundPulmonary nodule guidelines do not indicate how to individualize follow-up according to comorbidity or life expectancy.
ObjectivesTo characterize comorbidity and life expectancy in older veterans with incidental, symptom-detected, or screen-detected nodules in 2008-09 compared to 2013-14. To determine the impact of these patient factors on four-year nodule follow-up among the 2008-09 subgroup.
DesignRetrospective cohort study.
SettingUrban Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
Participants243 veterans age ≥65 with newly diagnosed pulmonary nodules in 2008-09 (followed for four years through 2012 or 2013) and 446 older veterans diagnosed in 2013-14.
MeasurementsThe primary outcome was receipt of any follow-up nodule imaging and/or biopsy within four years after nodule diagnosis. Primary predictor variables included age, Charlson-Deyo Comorbidity Index (CCI), and life expectancy. Favorable life expectancy was defined as age 65-74 with CCI 0 while limited life expectancy was defined as age ≥85 with CCI ≥1 or age ≥65 with CCI ≥4. Interaction by nodule size was also examined.
ResultsFrom 2008-09 to 2013-14, the number of older veterans diagnosed with new pulmonary nodules almost doubled, including among those with severe comorbidity and limited life expectancy. Overall among the 2008-09 subgroup, receipt of nodule follow-up decreased with increasing comorbidity (CCI ≥4 versus 0: adjusted RR 0.61, 95% CI 0.39-0.95) with a trend towards decreased follow-up among those with limited life expectancy (adjusted RR 0.69, 95% CI 0.48-1.01). However, we detected an interaction effect with nodule size such that comorbidity and life expectancy were associated with decreased follow-up only among those with nodules ≤6 mm.
ConclusionsWe found some individualization of pulmonary nodule follow-up according to comorbidity and life expectancy in older veterans with smaller nodules only. As increased imaging detects nodules in sicker patients, guidelines need to be more explicit about how to best incorporate comorbidity and life expectancy to maximize benefits and minimize harms for patients with nodules of all sizes.