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J Emerg Med. 2015 Jul;49(1):104-17. doi: 10.1016/j.jemermed.2014.12.041. Epub 2015 Mar 20.

Emergency Evaluation for Pulmonary Embolism, Part 2: Diagnostic Approach.

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Department of Emergency Medicine and Department of Cellular and Integrative Physiology, Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis, Indiana.
Department of Emergency Medicine, Center for Vascular Emergencies, Massachusetts General Hospital and Department of Emergency Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts.



In part 1 of this two-part review, we discussed which risk factors, historical features, and physical findings increase risk for pulmonary embolism (PE) in symptomatic emergency department (ED) patients.


Use published evidence to describe criteria that a reasonable and prudent clinician can use to initiate and guide the process of excluding and diagnosing PE.


The careful and diligent emergency physician can use clinical criteria to safely obviate a formal evaluation of PE, including the use of gestalt reasoning and the pulmonary embolism rule-out criteria (PERC rule, Table 2, part 1). We present published clinical and radiographic features of patients with PE who eluded diagnosis in the ED. D-dimer can be used to exclude PE in many patients, and employing age-based adjustments to the threshold to define an abnormal value can further reduce patient exposure to pulmonary vascular imaging. Moreover, we discuss benefits, limitations, and potential harms of computed tomographic pulmonary vascular imaging relevant to patients and the practice of emergency care. We present algorithms to guide exclusion and diagnosis of PE in patients with suspected PE, including those who are pregnant.


Reasonable and prudent emergency clinicians can exclude PE in symptomatic ED patients on clinical grounds alone in many patients, and many more can have PE ruled out by use of the D-dimer.


decision making; defensive medicine; diagnosis; medicolegal; pregnancy; pulmonary embolism; venous thromboembolism

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