The utility of screening renal ultrasonography: identifying renal cell carcinoma in an elderly asymptomatic population


Kenneth S. Koeneman MD, University of Minnesota, Department of Urologic Surgery, 420 Delaware Street SE, MMC 394, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA.



To evaluate the efficacy and utility of screening renal ultrasonography (RUS) in older patients with a high prevalence of risk factors for renal cell carcinoma (RCC), as with the widespread use of advanced imaging techniques the identification of incidental RCC has increased, and although previous studies in low-risk groups reported little use for screening RUS, its utility in high-risk groups is unknown.


From 1993 to 1997, screening RUS was completed for 6678 consecutive patients in conjunction with the Aneurysm Detection and Management study. Patient demographics, medical and social history were recorded for each patient. Screening RUS was completed by one ultrasonographer using a 3.5-MHz sector scanner. A urologist verified any abnormalities identified by RUS during consultation. Additional imaging tests were obtained selectively and intervention was recommended based on the results of the genitourinary evaluation.


From the screened population of 6678 patients, 817 (12.3%) renal anomalies were found, including a solid renal mass in 22 (0.32%), simple renal cysts in 627 (9.4%), hydronephrosis in 21 (0.31%), renal calculi in 121 (1.8%), or other abnormalities in 24 (0.36%). Treatment was completed for 15 renal cancers; 13 were organ-confined on pathological review. At a mean follow-up of >55 months, 12 of the 15 patients with RCC survived.


In this older cohort, retroperitoneal RUS was an effective tool for case-finding by detecting significant findings in an asymptomatic population. The prevalence of solid renal masses (0.32%) was higher than reported with other screening protocols. Although probably not the best method for generalized primary screening, the use of RUS may still be beneficial for ‘secondary’ screening in a more selected patient population.