Atlanta — One in 60 older people may be walking around with benign brain tumors and don't know it. Even more may have bulging blood vessels in the head that could burst.
These results come from a surprising new Dutch study that finds brain abnormalities are not all that uncommon.
It's not clear how alarming this is. Most of the abnormalities hadn't caused any symptoms, though some were potentially life-threatening.
But the findings may have implications for patients in the future: As more of these abnormalities are spotted with more sophisticated equipment during routine medical tests, some doctors may urge patients to have surgery or other treatment as a precaution. Or some patients may push doctors to fix the potential problem.
"It's very scary to learn there's something wrong in your head," said Dr. Aad van der Lugt, an associate professor in radiology at Erasmus MC University Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and a co-author of the study published in Thursday's New England Journal of Medicine.
The study is based on MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, scans of 2,000 healthy adults with an average age of 63. They were participating in a study to look at the causes and consequences of age-related brain changes. The new paper's findings were incidental to the main research.
Participants who needed additional evaluation or treatment were referred to specialists. None of the brain tumors spotted by the MRIs required surgery, the researchers said.