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Keywords:

  • fibrin fragment D;
  • medical decision making;
  • spiral computed;
  • tomography;
  • venous thromboembolism

Summary.  Background:  Increasing the threshold to define a positive D-dimer could reduce unnecessary computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) for a suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) but might increase rates of a missed PE and missed pneumonia, the most common non-thromboembolic diagnosis seen on CTPA.

Objective:  Measure the effect of doubling the standard D-dimer threshold for ‘PE unlikely’ Revised Geneva (RGS) or Wells’ scores on the exclusion rate, frequency and size of a missed PE and missed pneumonia.

Methods:  Patients evaluated for a suspected PE with 64-channel CTPA were prospectively enrolled from emergency departments (EDs) and inpatient units of four hospitals. Pretest probability data were collected in real time and the D-dimer was measured in a central laboratory. Criterion standard was CPTA interpretation by two independent radiologists combined with clinical outcome at 30 days.

Results:  Of 678 patients enrolled, 126 (19%) were PE+ and 93 (14%) had pneumonia. Use of either Wells’ ≤ 4 or RGS ≤ 6 produced similar results. For example, with RGS ≤ 6 and standard threshold (< 500 ng mL−1), D-dimer was negative in 110/678 (16%), and 4/110 were PE+ (posterior probability 3.8%) and 9/110 (8.2%) had pneumonia. With RGS ≤ 6 and a threshold < 1000 ng mL−1, D-dimer was negative in 208/678 (31%) and 11/208 (5.3%) were PE+, but 10/11 missed PEs were subsegmental and none had concomitant DVT. Pneumonia was found in 12/208 (5.4%) with RGS ≤ 6 and D-dimer < 1000 ng mL−1.

Conclusions:  Doubling the threshold for a positive D-dimer with a PE unlikely pretest probability could reduce CTPA scanning with a slightly increased risk of missed isolated subsegmental PE, and no increase in rate of missed pneumonia.