Patient Care

No Mortality Benefit with Treatment of Single Peripheral Pulmonary Emboli


Clinical question: Does treatment of single peripheral pulmonary emboli impact mortality and rates of post-discharge venous thromboembolism (VTE)?

Background: With the increase in CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA) use the past decade, there has been an increased rate of detection of peripheral filling defects. When confronted with a single peripheral filling defect (SPFD), clinicians face the dilemma of whether treatment is necessary, given the risks associated with anticoagulation.

Study design: Retrospective cohort.

Setting: Community teaching hospital in Norwalk, Conn.

Synopsis: A total of 4,906 CTPAs were screened, revealing 153 scans with an SPFD. Primary analysis included 134 patients 18 years or older. Of these patients, 61 (45.5%) received treatment with anticoagulation (n=51) or IVC filter alone (n=10).

This study revealed no difference in adjusted 90-day mortality between treated and untreated groups. No statistically significant difference was found in the rate of post-discharge VTE within 90 days.

Characteristics associated with treatment for SPFD were patient immobility, previous VTE, and radiology labeling the filling defect as a pulmonary embolus. It is important to note that none of the patients who had a normal second imaging study (e.g. V/Q scan or ultrasound) were treated; therefore, the use of secondary studies could mitigate some of the uncertainty around SPFD management, though this is not recommended in current diagnostic algorithms. Because this is a single-center study with a modest sample size, the comparability of findings to other centers might be limited. Larger studies are needed to help clarify these findings.

Bottom line: Treatment of SPFD was not associated with a difference in mortality or post-discharge VTE within 90 days.

Citation: Green O, Lempel J, Kolodziej A, et al. Treatment of single peripheral pulmonary emboli: patient outcomes and factors associated with decision to treat. J Hosp Med. 2014;9(1):42-47.

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