CT pulmonary angiography findings that predict 30-day mortality in patients with acute pulmonary embolism

Eur J Radiol. 2015 Feb;84(2):332-7. doi: 10.1016/j.ejrad.2014.11.023. Epub 2014 Nov 27.


Purpose: Standard computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) can be used to diagnose acute pulmonary embolism. In addition, multiple findings at CTPA have been proposed as potential tools for risk stratification. Therefore, the aim of the present study is to examine the prognostic value of (I) thrombus distribution, (II) morphometric parameters of right ventricular dysfunction, and (III) contrast reflux in inferior vena cava on 30-day mortality.

Material and methods: In a retrospective, single-center study from 06/2005 to 01/2010 365 consecutive patients were included. Inclusion criteria were: presence of acute pulmonary embolism, and availability of 30-day follow-up. A review of patient charts and images was performed.

Results: There were no significant differences between the group of 326 survivors and 39 non-survivors in (I) thrombus distribution, and (II) morphometric measurements of right ventricular dysfunction. However, (III) contrast reflux in inferior vena cava was significantly stronger in non-survivors (odds ratio 3.29; p<0.001). Results were independent from comorbidities like heart insufficiency and pulmonary hypertension.

Conclusion: Measurement of contrast reflux is a new and robust method for predicting 30-day mortality in patients with acute pulmonary embolism. Obstruction scores and morphometric measurements of right ventricular dysfunction perform poor as risk stratification tools.

Keywords: 30-day mortality; Computed tomography; Contrast reflux; Embolus burden; Pulmonary embolism; Right ventricular dysfunction.

MeSH terms

  • Acute Disease
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angiography*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Prognosis
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / mortality
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed*
  • Ventricular Dysfunction, Right / diagnostic imaging