Diagnosis and management of isolated subsegmental pulmonary embolism: review and assessment of the options

Clin Appl Thromb Hemost. 2012 Jan-Feb;18(1):20-6. doi: 10.1177/1076029611422363. Epub 2011 Sep 23.


We assessed the potential safety of withholding treatment of pulmonary embolism (PE) limited to subsegmental branches. Literature review showed that untreated patients with mostly subsegmental PE had no fatal recurrences in 1 to 3 months and no nonfatal recurrences of PE in 3 months. Patients with suspected PE who had nondiagnostic ventilation/perfusion lung scans, adequate cardiorespiratory reserve or low or moderate clinical probability, and negative serial noninvasive leg tests were shown not to require treatment. It appears safe, therefore, to withhold treatment of subsegmental PE providing (1) pulmonary-respiratory reserve is good; (2) no evidence of deep venous thrombosis (DVT) on serial testing; (3) major risk factor for PE was transient and no longer present; (4) no history of central venous catheterization or atrial fibrillation; and (5) willingness to return for serial venous ultrasound. After fully informing patients, some may choose to be treated and some may choose not to be treated.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / epidemiology
  • Pulmonary Embolism / therapy
  • Recurrence
  • Risk Factors
  • Time Factors