We can all probably agree that medical reports can be confusing. The words doctors use to describe things are often not used in any other walk of life, and it can sometimes seem like they are designed to hide information instead of share it.
Radiology reports often use the term “lesion” to describe a finding. In medicine, a lesion is defined as “any damage or abnormal change.” For example, on the skin, a lesion could be a freckle, a bruise, a scar, or a tumor. In most cases, the radiologist uses this term to describe something that is abnormal, without saying exactly what it is. You may wonder, “Why not say exactly what it is?” Usually that’s because the radiologist knows the finding on the x–ray, CT or MRI scan could be caused by one of several different things, and they can’t tell which one of those things it is from that exam alone. A complete report will list the things the radiologist thinks the lesion most likely is and it may recommend additional tests that will help decide, or at least narrow down, the list of potential diagnoses.
Sometimes the additional test is just a repeat of the same test, done several months later. The reason to do that is to see if the lesion is changing over time. Using the skin examples above, a freckle that doesn’t change over 6 months is just a freckle, but one that grows and bleeds is more likely to be a tumor. If one of the possible choices is something that is expected to change quickly, a short follow up is usually recommended. For things that change very slowly, a longer follow up is ordered.
The radiologist’s report is just one part of the work used to solve medical questions. Your child’s other doctors will take the information from the report and combine it with what they know from laboratory tests and from physically examining your child to help decide if the “lesion” described in the report has anything to do with what is bothering him or her. Lesions that are unrelated to symptoms are typically called “incidental findings.” Sometimes they are important and sometimes they are not. You should discuss any findings with your child’s doctor to decide what to do about them.
Dr. Blaise Jones, (author); Tony Dandino, (RT(MR), editor; Meredith Towbin, copy editor