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: 0.85). 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.

  • Source
    Revista portuguesa de cardiologia: orgao oficial da Sociedade Portuguesa de Cardiologia = Portuguese journal of cardiology: an official journal of the Portuguese Society of Cardiology 10/2014; 33. · 0.53 Impact Factor
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    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.
  • [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Pulmonary Embolism (PE) is a potentially fatal complication of venous thrombosis. Recent and comprehensive estimates of PE incidence and mortality are scarce. Moreover, while contemporary mortality trends of PE would enable the evaluation of prevention and quality of care, such data are lacking. The aim of this study was to provide nationwide estimations of PE mortality and time trends in France between 2000 and 2010. Mortality data were obtained from the French Epidemiology Center on medical causes of death. Mortality rates were calculated with PE as an underlying or one of multiple causes of death. The annual percentage changes were assessed using a Poisson regression model. Age-standardized PE mortality rates were also assessed. In 2010, the overall age-adjusted PE mortality rate was 21.0 per 100000. This rate was 30% higher in men than in women and decreased by 3% per year between 2000 and 2010. Over this period, PE mortality declined in men and women over 55years but only slightly decreased in patients younger than 55. Cancer, obesity, osteopathies and complications of surgery were often coded as the underlying causes of death when PE was an associated cause of death recorded on certificate. This study is the first to provide a contemporary and exhaustive nationwide estimation of PE mortality and time trends in France. The observed decrease in PE mortality between 2000 and 2010 is encouraging, but further efforts in prevention are needed to ensure that this reduction is widespread in all age groups. Copyright © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
    Thrombosis Research 12/2014; 135(2). · 2.43 Impact Factor


Available from