Dr. Howard Rowley And Son To Present Incidental Findings Research At ECR

Posted on November 2013

Paul Rowley, the son of UW Radiology’s Dr. Howard Rowley, is a typical undergraduate junior. He is majoring in
neurobiology, and loves traveling and playing the guitar and piano.

He has also received a nomination by the European Congress of Radiology to present his paper, titled
“Unexpected brain MRI findings in research volunteers” at the 2014 annual meeting in March in Vienna, Austria.
Co-authors include the Department of Radiology’s Aaron Field, M.D., Ph.D., Alejandro Munoz del Rio, Ph.D., Elizabeth Simcock, and Paul’s father.

It started in the summer of 2012, when Paul was hired by the department to check through a database the of brain research scans of volunteers participating in a wide range of studies. During a transition from paper forms to an online platform, some of the data may have been entered incorrectly or mistyped, and it was Paul’s job to track down the correct information and rectify the entries.

While amassing information on close to 7000 individual entries, Paul began to reflect on his interest in incidental findings in neuroimaging research. The co-authors realized they had valuable raw data about the neurologic status of a large general population with no prior neurologic complaints, and sought IRB approval to fully study the data and look for abnormalities.

The authors then pored over the scans, categorized abnormal scans, and Munoz del Rio performed statistical analysis of the data.

“Where this study diverges from prior studies is in the sheer size of the subject population, so the conclusions carry greater statistical power,” Paul said.

Around 80 percent of the scans they looked at were normal. However, despite the fact that almost 4 percent needed further follow up for their abnormalities, less than 1 percent had been flagged during the initial scan.

“When volunteers were contacted regarding abnormal findings, they were almost universally grateful for the information, and opted for additional clinical evaluation,” the group’s abstract states.

“This project paves the way for further investigation into… procedures for handling the discovery and disclosure of adventitious findings, as well as numerous other ethical considerations,” Paul said.

Beyond graduation, Paul hopes to attend medical school and become a physician. He also says he’d like to remain active in neuroscience research. The Department of Radiology is pleased to be able to facilitate emerging research and foster learning in such novel ways.