Performance of Low-Dose Perfusion Scintigraphy and CT Pulmonary Angiography for Pulmonary Embolism in Pregnancy

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The symptoms of normal pregnancy overlap those of pulmonary embolism (PE). Limited literature suggests that low-dose perfusion scanning (LDQ), which yields lower maternal–fetal radiation exposure than CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA), performs well in excluding PE in pregnant patients.


We performed a retrospective cohort study of sequential pregnant women who underwent imaging for PE with LDQ or CTPA between 2008 and 2013 at Montefiore Medical Center. Our practice recommends LDQ for patients with negative results on chest radiographs. Patients were categorized according to initial imaging modality, and a subgroup analysis was performed in patients with asthma. The primary outcome was the negative predictive value (NPV) of imaging determined by VTE diagnosis within 90 days.


Of 322 pregnant women (mean age, 27.3 ± 6.3 years), initial imaging was positive for PE in 2.7% (6 of 225) of LDQs and 4.1% (4 of 97) of CTPAs, negative in 88.0% (198 of 225) of LDQs and 86.6% (84 of 97) of CTPAs, and indeterminate/nondiagnostic in 9.3% (21 of 225) of LDQs and 9.3% (9 of 97) of CTPAs (P = .79). Ten patients (3.1%) were treated for PE. The NPV was 100% for LDQ and 97.5% for CTPA. Subgroup analysis of patients with asthma (23.9% of this population) revealed a high likelihood of a negative study in the LDQ and CTPA groups (74.1% and 87.0%, respectively) and 100% NPV for both modalities.


PE is an uncommon diagnosis in pregnancy. LDQ and CTPA perform well, with less maternal–fetal radiation exposure with LDQ. Therefore, when available, LDQ is a reasonable first-choice modality for suspected PE in pregnant women with a negative result on chest radiograph.

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