Non-invasive exclusion and diagnosis of pulmonary embolism by sequential use of the rapid ELISA D-dimer assay, clinical score and spiral CT

Int Angiol. 2003 Mar;22(1):1-14.


Pulmonary angiography is the gold standard for segmental pulmonary embolism (PE) but no longer for its subsegmental PE, because the inter-observer agreement for angiographically documented subsegmental PE is only 60%. Two non-invasive tools exclude PE with a negative predictive value of > 99%: a normal perfusion lung scan and a normal rapid ELISA VIDAS D-dimer test. The positive predictive value of a high probability ventilation-perfusion lung scan (VP-scan) is only 85% to 87%. The combination of a low clinical score and a non-diagnostic VP-scan safely exclude PE without the need of angiography. The prevalence of PE and that of an alternative diagnosis in symptomatic patients with a non-diagnostic VP-scan are 10% to 20% and 30% to 45%, respectively. Helical spiral computed tomography (CT) detects all clinically relevant PE and a large number of alternative diagnoses in symptomatic patients with a non-diagnostic or high probability VP-scan. The positive predictive value of the spiral CT is > 95%. Single-slice helical CT as the primary diagnostic test in patients with suspected PE in retrospective outcome studies and in prospective multicenter management studies indicate that the negative predictive value of a negative spiral CT preceded or followed by a negative compression ultrasonography (CUS) is > 99%. Therefore, a helical spiral CT can replace both the VP-scan and pulmonary angiography to safely rule in and out PE. A negative rapid ELISA VIDAS D-dimer test result will reduce the need for helical spiral CT by 25% to 35%.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Angiography
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay*
  • Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products / analysis*
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prevalence
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed*
  • Venous Thrombosis / epidemiology
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Ratio


  • Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products
  • fibrin fragment D