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Ann Emerg Med. 2000 Feb;35(2):168-80.

New diagnostic tests for pulmonary embolism.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, NC 28232-2861, USA.


In 1990, the multicenter Prospective Investigation of Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis (PIOPED), sponsored by the National Institutes of Health, compared the diagnostic value of the radioisotopic ventilation-perfusion lung scan (V/Q scan) with that of pulmonary angiography for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism (PE). Despite the endurance of the radioisotopic V/Q scan as the most widely used test for evaluation of pulmonary embolism (PE), a better screening tool is clearly needed for use in the emergency department. During the past decade, several new modalities have emerged for evaluation of patients with suspected PE. We evaluate the diagnostic utility of the D-dimer test and the alveolar dead space determination as potential screening tests and of spiral computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, transthoracic echocardiography, and transesophageal echocardiography as potential confirmatory tests for PE. For comparison, recent data on the diagnostic utility of the alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient and the V/Q scan are included. The potential application of these new tests to a hypothetical ED population is described.

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