The Age of CT Pulmonary Angiography

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With the introduction of multi detector-row CT (MDCT), computed tomography (CT) has been firmly established as the de facto first line test for imaging patients with suspected pulmonary embolism (PE). However, remaining concerns regarding CT's accuracy for diagnosis of isolated peripheral emboli have prevented the unanimous acceptance of this test as the standard of reference for imaging PE. Consequently, many patients with a chest CT scan negative for PE undergo additional testing for a definitive rule-out of PE, increasing radiation burden, risk of complications, and health care cost. After a decade of uncertainty, there is now conclusive evidence that computed tomography (CT), if positive, provides reliable confirmation of the presence of PE and, more importantly, if negative effectively rules out clinically significant PE. Current endeavors to streamline and facilitate workflow for CT diagnosis of PE will further improve the acceptance, utility, and importance of this test. Thus, rather than seeking further confirmation for the accuracy of CT for PE diagnosis, future efforts ought to be directed at harnessing the unique strengths of this test. Examples include improvements in workflow, CT derivation of right ventricular function parameters for triage and prognostication of patients with acute PE, and the comprehensive assessment of patients with acute chest pain for PE, coronary disease, aortic disease, and pulmonary disease by means of a single, contrast enhanced, ECG-synchronized CT scan. At the same time, efforts must be directed at refining clinical pathways to ensure appropriate use and avoid overutilization of this test.

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