Pulmonary embolism: update on diagnosis and management

Paul C Kruger, John W Eikelboom, James D Douketis, Graeme J Hankey

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a potentially life-threatening condition, mandating urgent diagnosis and treatment. The symptoms of PE may be non-specific; diagnosis therefore relies on a clinical assessment and objective diagnostic testing. A clinical decision rule can determine the pre-test probability of PE. If PE is "unlikely", refer for a D-dimer test. If the D-dimer result is normal, PE can be excluded. If D-dimer levels are increased, refer for chest imaging. If PE is "likely", refer for chest imaging. Imaging with computed tomography pulmonary angiogram is accurate and preferred for diagnosing PE, but may detect asymptomatic PE of uncertain clinical significance. Imaging with ventilation-perfusion (VQ) scan is associated with lower radiation exposure than computed tomography pulmonary angiogram, and may be preferred in younger patients and pregnancy. A low probability or high probability VQ scan is helpful for ruling out or confirming PE, respectively; however, an intermediate probability VQ scan requires further investigation. The direct oral anticoagulants have expanded the anticoagulation options for PE. These are the preferred anticoagulant for most patients with PE because they are associated with a lower risk of bleeding, and have the practical advantages of fixed dosage, no need for routine monitoring, and fewer drug interactions compared with vitamin K antagonists. Initial parenteral treatment is required before dabigatran and edoxaban.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)82-87
Number of pages6
JournalMedical Journal of Australia
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2019


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