Which imaging studies aid in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism (PE)?

Updated: Sep 18, 2020
  • Author: Daniel R Ouellette, MD, FCCP; Chief Editor: Zab Mosenifar, MD, FACP, FCCP  more...
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Imaging studies that aid in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism include the following:

  • Computed tomography angiography (CTA): Multidetector-row CTA (MDCTA) is the criterion standard for diagnosing pulmonary embolism

  • Pulmonary angiography: Criterion standard for diagnosing pulmonary embolism when MDCTA is not available

  • Chest radiography: Abnormal in most cases of pulmonary embolism, but nonspecific

  • V/Q scanning: When CT scanning is not available or is contraindicated

  • ECG: Most common abnormalities are tachycardia and nonspecific ST-T wave abnormalities

  • MRI: Using standard or gated spin-echo techniques, pulmonary emboli demonstrate increased signal intensity within the pulmonary artery

  • Echocardiography: Transesophageal echocardiography may identify central pulmonary embolism

  • Venography: Criterion standard for diagnosing DVT

  • Duplex ultrasonography: Noninvasive diagnosis of pulmonary embolism by demonstrating the presence of a DVT at any site

See Workup for more detail.

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