Purpose: To evaluate the prevalence and anatomic distribution of pulmonary embolism (PE) in a group of consecutive patients clinically suspected of having PE.
Materials and methods: Four hundred eighty-seven consecutive patients clinically suspected of having PE were examined in six Dutch hospitals from May 1997 through March 1998. Patients underwent ventilation-perfusion (V-P) scintigraphy, spiral computed tomographic (CT) angiography, and/or digital subtraction pulmonary angiography according to a strict diagnostic protocol. Independent readers reviewed all of the diagnostic image studies in centralized readings. The largest pulmonary arterial branch in which PE was detected was recorded.
Results: The prevalence of PE was 27% (130 of 487 patients). There was a significant difference in PE size between the high-probability and nondiagnostic V-P scans: The high-probability scans tended to depict larger emboli, but they also showed small subsegmental emboli. Twenty-nine (22%) of 130 patients had subsegmental PE; 23 of these 29 patients had a high-probability V-P scan.
Conclusion: The largest pulmonary arterial branch with PE was central or lobar in 66 (51%), segmental in 35 (27%), and isolated subsegmental in 29 (22%) patients.