Do emergency physicians use serum D-dimer effectively to determine the need for CT when evaluating patients for pulmonary embolism? Review of 5,344 consecutive patients

Michael T Corwin, Jay H. Donohoo, Robert Partridge, Thomas K. Egglin, William W. Mayo-Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

38 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE. The purpose of our study was to investigate whether D-dimer screening is being used effectively to determine the need for MDCT in diagnosing acute pulmonary embolism (PE) in emergency department patients. MATERIALS AND METHODS. We performed a retrospective review of all patients who underwent D-dimer testing or MDCT in the emergency department from January 1, 2003, through October 31, 2005. A D-dimer value of > 0.43 μg/mL was considered positive. Diagnosis of PE was made on the basis of the MDCT. Clinical algorithms for diagnosing PE mandate that patients with a low clinical suspicion for PE undergo D-dimer testing, then MDCT if positive. For patients with a high clinical suspicion for PE, MDCT should be performed without D-dimer testing. RESULTS. Of 3,716 D-dimer tests, 1,431 (39%) were positive and 2,285 (61%) were negative. MDCT was performed in 166 (7%) patients with negative D-dimer results and in 826 (58%) patients with positive D-dimer results. The prevalence of PE in patients with a high clinical suspicion and no D-dimer testing was 9% (139/1,628), which was higher than the rate of PE in the positive D-dimer group at 2% (19/826) (p < 0.0001). There was no significant difference in the prevalence of PE in the positive and negative D-dimer groups (2% vs 0.6%, respectively) (p = 0.23). The sensitivity and negative predictive value of D-dimer for PE were 95% (95% CI, 73.1-99.7%) and 99% (95% CI, 96.2-99.9%), respectively. CONCLUSION. D-dimer screening is not used according to established diagnostic algorithms to determine the need for MDCT in diagnosing acute pulmonary embolism in our emergency department.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1319-1323
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Roentgenology
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009
Externally publishedYes



  • CT angiography
  • D-dimer
  • Emergency department
  • Pulmonary embolism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Medicine(all)

Cite this