How is deep venous thrombosis (DVT) diagnosed?

Updated: Jun 05, 2019
  • Author: Kaushal (Kevin) Patel, MD; Chief Editor: Barry E Brenner, MD, PhD, FACEP  more...
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VTE remains an underdiagnosed disease, and most cases of pulmonary embolism (PE) are diagnosed at autopsy. Diagnosis depends on a high level of clinical suspicion and the presence of risk factors that prompt diagnostic study. Because the presentation is nonspecific and because the consequence of missing the diagnosis is serious, it must be excluded whenever it is a feasible differential diagnosis. Because the prevalence of the disease is 15-30% in the population at clinical risk, a widely applicable (inexpensive and simple) screening test is required.

Conclusive diagnosis historically required invasive and expensive venography, which is still considered the criterion standard. Since 1990, the diagnosis has been obtained noninvasively by means of (still expensive) sonographic examination. The validation of the simpler and cheaper D-dimer test as an initial screening test permits a rapid, widely applicable screening that may reduce the rate of missed diagnoses. Algorithms are based on pretest probabilities and D-dimer results. As many of 40% of patients with a low clinical suspicion and a negative D-dimer result require no further evaluation. [101, 102]

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