Objective: To develop a simple standardized clinical score to stratify emergency ward patients with clinically suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) into groups with a high, intermediate, or low probability of PE to improve and simplify the diagnostic approach.
Methods: Analysis of a database of 1090 consecutive patients admitted to the emergency ward for suspected PE in whom diagnosis of PE was ruled in or out by a standard diagnostic algorithm. Logistic regression was used to predict clinical parameters associated with PE.
Results: A total of 296 (27%) of 1090 patients were found to have PE. The optimal estimate of clinical probability was based on 8 variables: recent surgery, previous thromboembolic event, older age, hypocapnia, hypoxemia, tachycardia, band atelectasis, or elevation of a hemidiaphragm on chest x-ray film. A probability score was calculated by adding points assigned to these variables. A cutoff score of 4 best identified patients with low probability of PE. A total of 486 patients (49%) had a low clinical probability of PE (score </=4), of which 50 (10.3%) had a proven PE. The prevalence of PE was 38% in the 437 patients with an intermediate probability (score of 5-8; n = 437) and 81% in the 63 patients with a high probability (score >/=9).
Conclusions: This clinical score, based on easily available and objective variables, provides a standardized assessment of the clinical probability of PE. Applying this score to emergency ward patients suspected of having PE could allow a more effective diagnostic process.