How has CT pulmonary angiography affected the rate of 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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The routine use of CT pulmonary angiography for the detection of pulmonary emboli has led to overdiagnosis of the condition, according to a recent study. Overdiagnosing pulmonary embolism has resulted in possible inappropriate treatment with anticoagulation, a leading cause of medication-related death. [64, 65]

Between 1998, when CT pulmonary angiography was introduced, and 2006, there was an 80% increase in the incidence of pulmonary embolism but little subsequent drop in deaths, which suggests that many of the extra emboli being detected are not clinically important. During this period, the detection rate rose from 62.1 to 112.3 per 100,000 US adults and US deaths from pulmonary embolism dropped from 12.3 to 11.9 per 100,000. [64, 65]

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