Platelet count and venous thromboembolism. A useful test for suspected pulmonary embolism

Chest. 1991 Dec;100(6):1493-6. doi: 10.1378/chest.100.6.1493.


We have previously reported that patients with deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and scintigraphic evidence of pulmonary embolism (PE) had a fall in platelet count, as compared with their levels before thrombosis had developed. Otherwise, no changes were found in DVT patients without embolism. We recently conducted a prospective study with a larger series of patients and studied platelet count behavior in 189 consecutive patients with acute venous thromboembolism (VTE) in whom a baseline blood cell count was available (obtained before thromboembolism developed). We found no significant differences in baseline platelet counts between groups. However, at the time of VTE diagnosis the analysis of variance demonstrated that mean platelet count was significantly higher in patients without embolism as compared with PE patients (p less than 0.001). On the other hand, no differences were found between patients with silent PE and those with clinically obvious PE. When patients with postoperative VTE and those with nonpostoperative VTE were analyzed separately, mean platelet count increased only in postoperative DVT patients without embolism (p less than 0.001). In the absence of a previous intervention, DVT did not produce any change in platelet count, while PE significantly reduced platelet number (p less than 0.008). In DVT patients without respiratory symptoms of embolism, we suggest that a lung scan should be performed when platelet count is lower than baseline value. For patients with a higher count, the probability of finding PE is very low, and scintigraphy is not cost-effective.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Count*
  • Postoperative Complications / blood
  • Postoperative Complications / diagnosis
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Embolism / blood
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Radionuclide Imaging
  • Thrombophlebitis / blood