Diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism in pregnancy: a systematic review


Menno V. Huisman, Department of General Internal Medicine LUMC Room C1 R 43, PO Box 9600 2300 RC, Leiden, The Netherlands.
Tel.: +31 71 526 2085; fax: +31 71 524 8140; e-mail: m.v.huisman@lumc.nl


Summary. Introduction: Diagnosing deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE) in pregnancy is challenging. Many of the common diagnostic tests, including compression ultrasonography (CUS), ventilation-perfusion scintigraphy (VQ scan) and helical computed tomography (hCT) that have been extensively investigated in non-pregnant patients, have not been appropriately validated in pregnancy. Extrapolating results of diagnostic studies of DVT and PE in non-pregnant patients to those who are pregnant may not be correct because during pregnancy, physiologic and anatomic changes may affect diagnostic test results, presentation and natural history of VTE. Methods: We performed a systematic analysis of published studies addressing accurate diagnostic testing for DVT and PE in pregnancy to determine the accuracy of these tests in pregnancy. Results: Our initial search yielded 530 articles of which four remained for inclusion, three studies investigating diagnostic testing in patients with a clinical suspicion of DVT or PE and one study in patients with a clinical suspicion of PE. Conclusions: From our systematic analysis of published studies investigating diagnostic testing for a clinical suspicion of DVT in pregnancy we conclude that; (i) two studies support withholding anticoagulant therapy in pregnant women with a clinical suspicion of DVT and normal results on serial IPG (impedance plethysmography), however, IPG is no longer used; (ii) one study demonstrated that a normal CUS at presentation combined with a normal D-dimer test or an abnormal D-dimer test combined with normal serial CUS appears promising for safely excluding DVT in pregnant patients, but too few patients were included in this pilot-study to draw firm conclusions; and (iii) one study investigated pregnant patients with a clinical suspicion of PE and this study concluded that in patients with normal or non-diagnostic VQ scans, withholding anticoagulant therapy might be safe, but this needs confirmation in larger studies. Recommendations on diagnostic testing of pregnant patients with a clinically suspected DVT or PE are provided.