What happens after a lung scan? Management and outcome of patients in a regional hospital

Australas Radiol. 2002 Dec;46(4):375-80. doi: 10.1046/j.1440-1673.2002.01087.x.


Pulmonary embolism (PE) remains a common preventable cause of death in hospitalized patients. The purpose of this study is to examine the in-hospital management, complications of treatment and clinical outcomes of inpatients undergoing lung scintigraphy for the diagnosis of PE in a regional hospital. Two hundred consecutive inpatients with suspected PE were enrolled. The results of lung scans, stratified according to the probability of pulmonary embolism, were correlated with anticoagulation status, discharge diagnosis, haemorrhagic complications and clinical outcome at 6 months. The use of complementary imaging investigations was also determined. Other imaging was performed infrequently (Doppler ultrasound in 18% of patients, CT pulmonary angiography (CT-PA) in 0.5% and conventional pulmonary angiography in 4% of patients). Long-term anticoagulation was initiated in 66 patients (33%), including 10 with intermediate probability lung scans (IPLS) who had no further investigations. Major haemorrhage occurred in 14% of all long-term anticoagulated patients followed up. The recognized recurrence rate was very low (3%) and there was no documented mortality from PE. Most patients with suspected PE are treated on the basis of the lung scan result without further tests. However, other imaging (especially CT-PA and conventional pulmonary angiography) should be performed prior to anticoagulation in patients with IPLS in whom the diagnosis is in doubt. Standard anticoagulation for 6 months appears to be effective for PE, and the recurrence rate is low. However, it has a significant risk of major haemorrhagic complications.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Anticoagulants / adverse effects
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / drug therapy
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Recurrence
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticoagulants