Pulmonary embolism detection: prospective evaluation of dual-section helical CT versus selective pulmonary arteriography in 157 patients

Radiology. 2000 Nov;217(2):447-55. doi: 10.1148/radiology.217.2.r00nv01447.


Purpose: To evaluate the accuracy of dual-section helical computed tomography (CT) in acute pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosis.

Materials and methods: Of 204 consecutive patients with clinically suspected acute PE (mean age, 58 years +/- 14 [SD]), 158 were enrolled. All patients underwent dual-section helical CT (2.7-mm effective section thickness) and selective pulmonary arteriography within 12 hours of each other. Each image was analyzed independently by two observers, who determined image quality and presence of PE among arterial segments, including at the subsegmental level. The final diagnosis was made with consensus.

Results: Selective pulmonary arteriography was considered optimal in 147 (93%), suboptimal in 10 (6%), and inconclusive in one (0.6%) of 158 patients. Dual-section helical CT findings were considered technically optimal in 140 (89%), suboptimal in 11 (7%), and inconclusive in six (4%). Selective pulmonary arteriography demonstrated PE in 62 patients. Four (6%) of 62 patients had isolated subsegmental PE. The sensitivity of dual-section helical CT was 90%, and the specificity was 94%. The positive and negative predictive values were 90% and 94%, respectively.

Conclusion: Dual-section helical CT is an improvement in helical CT that offers a high sensitivity and specificity for the depiction of PE, including at the subsegmental level. Dual-section helical CT can replace pulmonary arteriography for the direct demonstration of PE in a majority of patients.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angiography, Digital Subtraction*
  • Contrast Media
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Artery / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed* / methods


  • Contrast Media