Impact of delay in clinical presentation on the diagnostic management and prognosis of patients with suspected pulmonary embolism

Paul L. Den Exter, Josien Van Es, Petra M.G. Erkens, Mark J.G. Van Roosmalen, Pim Van Den Hoven, Marcel M.C. Hovens, Pieter W. Kamphuisen, Frederikus A. Klok, Menno V. Huisman

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Rationale: The nonspecific clinical presentation of pulmonary embolism (PE) frequently leads to delay in its diagnosis.

Objectives: This study aimed to assess the impact of delay in presentation on the diagnostic management and clinical outcome of patients with suspected PE.

Methods: In 4,044 consecutive patients with suspected PE, patients presenting more than 7 days from the onset of symptoms were contrasted with those presenting within 7 days as regards the safety of excluding PE on the basis of a clinical decision rule combined with D-dimer testing. Patients were followed for 3 months to assess the rates of recurrent venous thromboembolism and mortality.

Measurements and Main Results: A delayed presentation (presentation >7 d) was present in 754 (18.6%) of the patients. The failure rate of an unlikely clinical probability and normal D-dimer test was 0.5% (95% confidence interval [CI], 0.01-2.7) for patients with and 0.5% (95% CI, 0.2-1.2) for those without diagnostic delay. D-dimer testing yielded a sensitivity of 99%(95% CI, 96-99%) and 98%(95% CI, 97-99%) in these groups, respectively. Patients with PE with diagnostic delay more frequently had centrally located PE (41% vs. 26%; P

Conclusions: PE can be safely excluded based on a clinical decision rule and D-dimer testing in patients with a delayed clinical presentation. A delayed presentation for patients who survived acute PE was associated with a more central PE location, although this did not affect the clinical outcome at 3 months.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1369-1373
Number of pages5
JournalAmerican Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 15-Jun-2013


  • pulmonary embolism
  • diagnosis
  • diagnostic delay
  • duration of symptoms
  • prognosis

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