American College of Chest Physicians and American Thoracic Society

View all recommendations from this society

Released October 27, 2013

Don’t perform chest computed tomography (CT angiography) to evaluate for possible pulmonary embolism in patients with a low clinical probability and negative results of a highly sensitive D-dimer assay.

Clinical practice guidelines for pulmonary embolism indicate that the cost and potential harms of CT angiography (including radiation exposure and the possibility of detecting and treating clinically insignificant pulmonary emboli with anticoagulation) outweigh the benefits for patients with a low pre-test probability of pulmonary embolism. In patients with a low clinical prediction score (e.g., Wells or Geneva score) followed by a negative D-dimer measured with a high sensitivity test (e.g., ELISA), pulmonary embolism is effectively excluded and no further imaging is indicated for pulmonary embolism evaluation.


These items are provided solely for informational purposes and are not intended as a substitute for consultation with a medical professional. Patients with any specific questions about the items on this list or their individual situation should consult their physician.

How The List Was Created

This document was prepared as a joint initiative of the American College of Chest Physicians and the American Thoracic Society. A taskforce with members from both societies was selected, including individuals from diverse backgrounds and clinical areas of expertise. Taskforce members initially proposed 30 items for consideration. The taskforce debated the impact of each based on five criteria (Evidence, Prevalence, Cost, Relevance, Innovation), and agreed to narrow the list to 10 items to explore in greater depth. Following an in-depth evidence review and consultation with external content experts for each item, the taskforce together reviewed and debated the compiled information for all 10 items. Subsequently, taskforce members independently scored each item on a scale of 1–5, rating each item on its overall impact as well as on each of the five criteria. The 5 items with the best mean overall scores were retained in the “penultimate” list. The taskforce then reviewed and edited the wording of items on the penultimate list, and submitted it to both societies’ executive committees. The executive committees sought feedback from additional experts in the field, debated the items, and provided written comments to the taskforce. The taskforce deliberated and incorporated these suggestions where appropriate to create the final list, resolving any conflicts through discussion. Both Societies elected to endorse the final list.

Members of the Task Force were: Renda Soylemez Wiener, MD, MPH (Co-Chair), Scott D. Halpern, MD, PhD (Co-Chair), Daniel R. Ouellette, MD, FCCP (Co-Chair), Edward Diamond, MD, MBA, FCCP, Vincent S. Fan, MD, MPH, Janet R. Maurer, MD, FCCP, Richard A. Mularski, MD, MSHS, MCR, FCCP and Jay I. Peters, MD, FCCP.

Sources

Fesmire FM, Brown MD, Espinosa JA, Shih RD, Silvers SM, Wolf SJ, Decker WW. Critical issues in the evaluation and management of adult patients presenting to the emergency department with suspected pulmonary embolism. Ann Emerg Med. 2011;57(6):628–652 e675.

Qaseem A, Snow V, Barry P, Hornbake ER, Rodnick JE, Tobolic T, Ireland B, Segal JB, Bass EB, Weiss KB, Green L, Owens DK; Joint American Academy of Family Physicians/American College of Physicians Panel on Deep Venous Thrombosis/Pulmonary Embolism. Current diagnosis of venous thromboembolism in primary care: a clinical practice guideline from the American Academyof Family Physicians and the American College of Physicians. Ann Intern Med. 2007 Mar 20;146(6):454–8.

Torbicki A, Perrier A, Konstantinides S, Agnelli G, Galiè N, Pruszczyk P, Bengel F, Brady AJ, Ferreira D, Janssens U, Klepetko W, Mayer E, Remy-Jardin M, Bassand JP; ESC Committee for Practice Guidelines (CPG). Guidelines on the diagnosis and management of acute pulmonary embolism: the Task Force for the Diagnosis and Management of Acute Pulmonary Embolism of the European Society of Cardiology (ESC). Eur Heart J. 2008;29(18):2276–315.

The Christopher Study Investigators. Effectiveness of managing suspected pulmonary embolism using an algorithm combining clinical probability, D-dimer testing, and computed tomography. JAMA. 2006;295:172–9.

Roy P-M, Colombet I, Durieux P, Chatellier G, Sors H, Meyer G. Systematic review and meta-analysis of strategies for the diagnosis of suspected pulmonary embolism. BMJ. 2005;331:259.

Anderson DR, Kahn SR, Rodger MA, Kovacs MJ, Morris T, Hirsch A, Lang E, Stiell I, Kovacs G, Dreyer J, Dennie C, Cartier Y, Barnes D, Burton E, Pleasance S, Skedgel C, O’Rouke K, Wells PS.Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography vs ventilation-perfusion lung scanning in patients with suspected pulmonary embolism: A randomized controlled trial. JAMA. 2007;298(23):2743–53.

Wiener RS, Schwartz LM, Woloshin S. Time trends in pulmonary embolism in the United States: evidence of overdiagnosis. Arch Intern Med. 2011;171(9):831–7.