Aim: To determine current clinical practice in the radiological diagnosis of acute pulmonary embolism and assess the use of spiral volumetric computed tomography.
Method: A survey of 327 acute hospitals including cardiothoracic and orthopaedic tertiary referral centres was undertaken to assess current utilization of lung scintigraphy, spiral computed tomography and pulmonary angiography in the investigation of suspected pulmonary embolism. Responses were received from 215/327 (66%) centres.
Results: Lung scintigraphy was provided by 208 hospitals (144 on-site and 64 off-site). Spiral CT services were provided by 111 (52%) hospitals (on- or off-site), 142 (66%) units had access to angiographic facilities. Sixty-three centres out of 215 (29%) offered both on-site lung scintigraphy and spiral CT while only 41/215 (19%) hospitals were able to undertake all three tests on-site. On average, 501 perfusion (Q) or ventilation-perfusion (V/Q) scintigrams were performed per hospital per year with 26 spiral CT studies and just 4.6 pulmonary angiograms.
Conclusion: These data suggest that lung scintigraphy is frequently the only imaging test in patients other than chest radiography, despite the large number of indeterminate results reported in most series.