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Eur Heart J. 2003 Feb;24(4):366-76.

Novel management strategy for patients with suspected pulmonary embolism.

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Cardiology, Swiss Cardiovascular Center, University Hospital, CH-3010, Bern, Switzerland.



A simple management strategy is required for patients with acute pulmonary embolism which allows a rapid and reliable diagnosis in order to start timely and appropriate treatment.


Two hundred and four consecutive patients with suspected pulmonary embolism were managed according to a standardized protocol based on the clinical pretest probability and the initial haemodynamic presentation (shock index=heart rate divided by systolic blood pressure). Patients with a high pretest probability and a positive shock index (> or =1) (n=21) underwent urgent transthoracic echocardiography. Based on the presence or absence of right ventricular dysfunction, reperfusion treatment was initiated immediately. Patients with a negative shock index (<1) (n=183) underwent diagnostic evaluation including pretest probability, D-dimer, and spiral computed tomography (CT) as first-line tests. Echocardiography was performed only when a central pulmonary embolism was found in the spiral CT(n=33). According to our strategy, 98 patients met the diagnostic criteria of pulmonary embolism: 75 patients (all shock index <1) were treated with heparin alone, 16 (seven had a shock index > or =1) with thrombolysis, four (all shock index > or =1) with catheter fragmentation, and three (all shock index > or =1) with surgical embolectomy. The all-cause mortality rate at 30 days was 5%, and at 6 months 11%. Right ventricular dysfunction on baseline echocardiography was not associated with a higher mortality rate at 6 months (logrank 2.4, P=0.12).


The novel management strategy for patients with suspected pulmonary embolism resulted in a rapid diagnosis and treatment with a low 30-day mortality. In patients with pulmonary embolism and a positive shock index, time-consuming imaging tests can be avoided to reduce the risk of sudden death and not to delay reperfusion therapy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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