Unsuspected pulmonary emboli adversely impact survival in patients with cancer undergoing routine staging multi-row detector computed tomography scanning

J Thromb Haemost. 2011 Feb;9(2):305-11. doi: 10.1111/j.1538-7836.2010.04114.x.


Background: While symptomatic venous thromboembolism adversely impacts survival among cancer patients, the outcome of cancer patients with unsuspected pulmonary embolism (UPE) found on routine cancer staging multi-row detector computed tomography (MDCT) scans is unknown.

Objective: To determine whether UPE detected on routine staging MDCT scans impacts overall survival among cancer patients.

Patients and methods: We performed a matched cohort study of cancer patients diagnosed with UPE on routine staging scans between May 2003 and August 2006. Two controls (n = 137) were individually matched by age (± 5 years), cancer type and stage for each UPE patient (n = 70). We used Cox's proportional hazard models to compare the mortality between UPE patients and their matched controls.

Results: The hazard ratio (HR) for death among UPE patients was 1.51 (95% CI 1.01-2.27, P = 0.048). Compared with their matched controls, patients with UPE more proximal than the subsegmental arterial branches had a HR for death at 6 months of 2.28 (95% CI 1.20-4.33, P = 0.011) and an overall HR of 1.70 (95% CI 1.06-2.74, P = 0.027). Survival among UPE patients with isolated subsegmental PE (ISSPE) was not significantly different than that of matched controls (HR 1.04 95% CI 0.44-2.39, P = 0.92).

Conclusions: UPE identified more proximal than the subsegmental arterial branches has a significant negative impact on survival among cancer patients.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / diagnostic imaging
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / complications
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Risk Factors
  • Survival Rate*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / instrumentation*
  • Treatment Outcome