Usefulness of D-dimer, blood gas, and respiratory rate measurements for excluding pulmonary embolism

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Abstract

Background

A study was undertaken to assess the usefulness of the SimpliRED D-dimer test, arterial oxygen tension, and respiratory rate measurement for excluding pulmonary embolism (PE) and venous thromboembolism (VTE).

Methods

Lung scans were performed in 517 consecutive medical inpatients with suspected acute PE over a one year period. Predetermined end points for objectively diagnosed PE in order of precedence were (1) a post mortem diagnosis, (2) a positive pulmonary angiogram, (3) a high probability ventilation perfusion lung scan when the pretest probability was also high, and (4) the unanimous opinion of an adjudication committee. Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) was diagnosed by standard ultrasound and venography.

Results

A total of 40 cases of PE and 37 cases of DVT were objectively diagnosed. The predictive value of a negative SimpliRED test for excluding objectively diagnosed PE was 0.99 (error rate 2/249), that of PaO2 of >or= to 80 mm Hg (10.7 kPa) was 0.97 (error rate 5/160), and that of a respiratory rate of or= to 80 mm Hg, which gave a predictive value of 1.0 (error rate 0/93). The predictive value of a negative SimpliRED test for excluding VTE was 0.98 (error rate 5/249).

Conclusions

All three of these observations are helpful in excluding PE. When any two parameters were normal, PE was very unlikely. In patients with a negative SimpliRED test and PaO2 of >or= to 80 mm Hg a lung scan is usually unnecessary. Application of this approach for triage in the preliminary assessment of suspected PE could lead to a reduced rate of false positive diagnoses and considerable resource savings.

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