Send to

Choose Destination
Arch Surg. 2001 May;136(5):505-11.

Spiral computed tomography for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism in critically ill surgical patients: a comparison with pulmonary angiography.

Author information

LAC+USC Medical Center, 1200 N State St, Room 9900, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.



Spiral computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) is sensitive and specific in diagnosing pulmonary embolism (PE) in critically ill surgical patients.


Prospective study comparing CTPA with the criterion standard, pulmonary angiography (PA).


Surgical intensive care unit of an academic hospital.


Twenty-two critically ill surgical patients with clinical suspicion of PE. The CTPAs and PAs were independently read by 4 radiologists (2 for each test) blinded to each other's interpretation. Clinical suspicion was classified as high, intermediate, or low according to predetermined criteria. All but 2 patients had marked pulmonary parenchymal disease at the time of the event that triggered evaluation for PE.


Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography and PA in 22 patients, venous duplex scan in 19.


Eleven patients (50%) had evidence of PE on PA, 5 in central and 6 in peripheral pulmonary arteries. The sensitivity and specificity of CTPA was, respectively, 45% and 82% for all PEs, 60% and 100% for central PEs, and 33% and 82% for peripheral PEs. Duplex scanning was 40% sensitive and 100% specific in diagnosing PE. The independent reviewers disagreed only in 14% of CTPA and 14% of PA interpretations. There were no differences in risk factors or clinical characteristics between patients with and without PE. The level of clinical suspicion was identical in the 2 groups.


Pulmonary angiography remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of PE in critically ill surgical patients. Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography needs further evaluation in this population.

Comment in

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Silverchair Information Systems
Loading ...
Support Center