CT Pulmonary Angiography: Increasingly Diagnosing Less Severe Pulmonary Emboli

Schissler, Andrew J.; Rozenshtein, Anna; Kulon, Michal E.; Pearson, Gregory D. N.; Green, Robert A.; Stetson, Peter D.; Brenner, David Jonathan; D'Souza, Belinda Maria; Tsai, Wei-Yann; Schluger, Neil W.; Einstein, Andrew J.


It is unknown whether the observed increase in computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) utilization has resulted in increased detection of pulmonary emboli (PEs) with a less severe disease spectrum.


Trends in utilization, diagnostic yield, and disease severity were evaluated for 4,048 consecutive initial CTPAs performed in adult patients in the emergency department of a large urban academic medical center between 1/1/2004 and 10/31/2009. Transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) findings and peak serum troponin levels were evaluated to assess for the presence of PE-associated right ventricular (RV) abnormalities (dysfunction or dilatation) and myocardial injury, respectively. Statistical analyses were performed using multivariate logistic regression.


268 CTPAs (6.6%) were positive for acute PE, and 3,780 (93.4%) demonstrated either no PE or chronic PE. There was a significant increase in the likelihood of undergoing CTPA per year during the study period (odds ratio [OR] 1.05, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.04–1.07, P<0.01). There was no significant change in the likelihood of having a CTPA diagnostic of an acute PE per year (OR 1.03, 95% CI 0.95–1.11, P = 0.49). The likelihood of diagnosing a less severe PE on CTPA with no associated RV abnormalities or myocardial injury increased per year during the study period (OR 1.39, 95% CI 1.10–1.75, P = 0.01).


CTPA utilization has risen with no corresponding change in diagnostic yield, resulting in an increase in PE detection. There is a concurrent rise in the likelihood of diagnosing a less clinically severe spectrum of PEs.


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