Pulmonary embolism: an unsuspected killer.

Department of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Mayo Medical School, Mayo Clinic, 200 First Street SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.
Emergency Medicine Clinics of North America (Impact Factor: 0.83). 12/2004; 22(4):961-83. DOI: 10.1016/j.emc.2004.05.011
Source: PubMed

ABSTRACT The presentation of PE is often subtle and may mimic other diseases. Many pulmonary emboli invariably preclude diagnosis by their occult nature or by leading to rapid death from cardiopulmonary arrest. In patients who do manifest symptoms from PE, accurate diagnosis is essential. Often it is difficult to distinguish the vague symptoms of PE from other diagnoses, such as acute coronary syndrome, pneumonia, COPD, CHF,aortic dissection, myocarditis or pericarditis, pneumothorax, and musculo-skeletal or gastrointestinal causes. Regardless of the presentation, the most fundamental step in making the diagnosis of PE is first to consider it. Historical clues and risk factors should raise the clinician's suspicion.PE is an unsuspected killer with a nebulous presentation and high mortality. In all likelihood, PE will remain an elusive diagnosis despite advances in technology and a wealth of research. A high index of suspicion is required, but no amount of suspicion would eliminate all missed cases. Patients with significant underlying cardiopulmonary disease seem to be the most challenging. Patients with significant comorbidity have poor reserve and are likely to have poor outcomes, especially if the diagnosis is not made and anticoagulation is not initiated early. Controversy exists over the best diagnostic approach to PE. A battery of diagnostic studies is available, with few providing definitive answers. Studies such as CT may be helpful at some institutions but offer poor predictive value at others. Other diagnostic tests are not universally available. It is hoped that further research and improvements in current diagnostic modalities will clear some of the current confusion and controversy of this ubiquitous and deadly disease.

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    ABSTRACT: Pulmonary embolism can be life threatening and difficult to diagnose as signs and symptoms are not specific. European guidelines recommend stratification of pulmonary embolism by risk of early mortality. Patients with suspected pulmonary embolism should be assessed for clinical probability of pulmonary embolism using a validated risk score. A low or intermediate clinical probability plus a negative high-sensitivity D-dimer test excludes pulmonary embolism. Anticoagulation is indicated in patients with a positive multidetector computed tomography or high-probability lung scan. An important part of the management of patients with pulmonary embolism has traditionally been anticoagulant treatment with parenteral heparins and oral vitamin K antagonists. Although effective, this dual-drug approach is associated with limitations. Direct oral anticoagulants that may overcome some of these problems have been tested in phase III clinical trials for the treatment of venous thromboembolism. Of these, rivaroxaban and apixaban have demonstrated non-inferiority to standard therapy when given as single-drug approaches for venous thromboembolism treatment, and provided significant reductions in major bleeding rates. Dabigatran and edoxaban were non-inferior to standard therapy when given as part of a dual-drug approach after initial parenteral anticoagulation, and reduced clinically relevant bleeding rates. There may be a benefit to extended anticoagulation with direct oral anticoagulants for the prevention of recurrent venous thromboembolism. Registry studies will provide more information on the use of these agents in real-world populations. Accurate diagnosis and risk stratification of patients with pulmonary embolism, together with simplified anticoagulation therapy, is likely to improve outcomes.
    Archives of Cardiovascular Diseases 07/2014; · 1.66 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: Pulmonary embolism (PE) may escape prompt diagnosis since clinical symptoms and signs are nonspecific. The occurrence of syncope as the sole initial symptom in a previously healthy patient with no predisposing factors to embolism and no hemodynamic instability is extremely rare, which may have been a factor in the delayed diagnosis. We describe a case of acute submassive PE with syncope as the initial symptom. A 62-year-old previously healthy female was admitted to our hospital for transitory episode of syncope. Following admission, chest computed tomography demonstrated embolism in the right main pulmonary and left inferior pulmonary arteries. Following the final diagnosis, the patient was successfully treated with thrombolytic therapy with systemic urokinase. We consider that raised awareness and early diagnosis and treatment were key factors in ensuring a satisfactory prognosis.
    Journal of thoracic disease. 10/2014; 6(10):E212-6.


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