CT angiography for diagnosis of pulmonary embolism: state of the art

Radiology. 2004 Feb;230(2):329-37. doi: 10.1148/radiol.2302021489.


In daily clinical routine, computed tomography (CT) has practically become the first-line modality for imaging of pulmonary circulation in patients suspected of having pulmonary embolism (PE). However, limitations regarding accurate diagnosis of small peripheral emboli have so far prevented unanimous acceptance of CT as the reference standard for imaging of PE. The development of multi-detector row CT has led to improved visualization of peripheral pulmonary arteries and detection of small emboli. The finding of a small isolated clot at pulmonary CT angiography, however, may be increasingly difficult to correlate with results of other imaging modalities, and the clinical importance of such findings is uncertain. Therefore, the most realistic scenario to measure efficacy of pulmonary CT angiography when PE is suspected may be assessment of patient outcome. Meanwhile, the high negative predictive value of a normal pulmonary CT angiographic study and its association with beneficial patient outcome has been demonstrated. While the introduction of multi-detector row technology has improved CT diagnosis of PE, it has also challenged its users to develop strategies for optimized contrast material delivery, reduction of radiation dose, and management of large-volume data sets created at those examinations.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Algorithms
  • Angiography*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Image Processing, Computer-Assisted*
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pulmonary Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Tomography, Spiral Computed*