Missed pulmonary emboli on CT angiography: assessment with pulmonary embolism-computer-aided detection

AJR Am J Roentgenol. 2014 Jan;202(1):65-73. doi: 10.2214/AJR.13.11049.


Objective: The purpose of this study is to assess the use of a pulmonary embolism (PE)- computer-aided detection (CADx) program in the detection of PE missed in clinical practice.

Materials and methods: Pulmonary CT angiography (CTA) studies (n = 6769) performed between January 2009 and July 2012 were retrospectively assessed by a thoracic radiologist. In studies that were positive for PE, all prior contrast-enhanced pulmonary CTA studies were reviewed. Missed PE was deemed to have occurred if PE was not described in the final interpretation. The presence, proximal extent, and number of PEs were agreed on by three thoracic radiologists. Studies with missed acute PE and available slice thickness of 2 mm or less were assessed with a prototype PE-CADx program. False-positive PE-CADx marks were analyzed. Outcomes of missed acute PEs were assessed in patients with both follow-up imaging and clinical data.

Results: Fifty-three studies with overlooked acute PE met our inclusion criteria for PE-CADx assessment. The PE-CADx program identified at least one PE in 77.4% of instances (41/53). PE-CADx correctly marked at least one PE in 23 of 23 cases (100%) with multiple PEs and 18 of 30 (60%) cases with a solitary PE (p < 0.001). PE-CADx per-study sensitivity was significantly higher for segmental (65.5%) than for subsegmental (91.7%) PEs (p = 0.002). PE-CADx averaged 3.8 false-positive marks per case (range, 0-23 marks). Fourteen patients with missed PE who were not receiving anticoagulation therapy developed new PEs, including nine with an isolated subsegmental PE on the initial CT scan.

Conclusion: PE-CADx correctly identified 77.4% of cases of acute PE that were previously missed in clinical practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Angiography / methods*
  • Contrast Media
  • Diagnosis, Computer-Assisted / methods*
  • Diagnostic Errors*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods*


  • Contrast Media