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Best Pract Res Clin Haematol. 2012 Sep;25(3):295-302. doi: 10.1016/j.beha.2012.06.002. Epub 2012 Jul 31.

Diagnosis of pulmonary embolism: Advances and pitfalls.

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Department of Thrombosis and Haemostasis, Leiden University Medical Center, Leiden, The Netherlands.


The signs and symptoms of patients with pulmonary embolism (PE) form a wide spectrum and considerably overlap with other cardiopulmonary diseases. Timely recognizing of this disease therefore remains challenging, but is of vital importance to avoid PE-related morbidity and mortality. To aid and standardize the initial diagnostic approach of patients with suspected PE, clinical probability rules have been developed and simplified for use in clinical practice. It has been demonstrated by clinical outcome studies that it is safe and of high clinical utility to exclude PE on the basis of an unlikely clinical probability and a normal D-dimer test result. For the remaining patients with suspected PE, imaging tests are required. The introduction of multi-detector computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (MD-CTA) has significantly improved the detection of PE, and this test is now regarded as the imaging test of first choice. This review will focus on recent advances and pitfalls that remain in the diagnostic work-up of patients with suspected acute PE.

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