Radionuclide Diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism

Adv Exp Med Biol. 2017;906:49-65. doi: 10.1007/5584_2016_105.


Diagnostic imaging plays an integral role in the diagnostic workup of suspected pulmonary embolism, and several modalities have been employed over the years. In recent years, the choice has been narrowed to either computer tomographic or radionuclide based methods, i.e. computer tomographic angiography (CTA) and ventilation-perfusion scintigraphy (V/Q-scan). Both methods display advantages and shortcomings, and while we provide some insights into CTA and alternative methods, the paper's main focus is a review of the V/Q-scan. We discuss basic considerations, interpretation criteria, clinical value, and controversies of conventional planar lung scintigraphy as well as the more contemporary 3-dimensional imaging technique of single photon emission tomography (SPECT) with or without CT.

Keywords: Diagnosis; Lung scintigraphy; Molecular imaging; Pulmonary embolism; Radioisotope; SPECT; V/Q-scan; Ventilation-perfusion scintigraphy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Computed Tomography Angiography / methods
  • Humans
  • Lung / diagnostic imaging*
  • Lung / physiopathology
  • Perfusion Imaging / methods*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / physiopathology
  • Radiopharmaceuticals / administration & dosage
  • Technetium Tc 99m Aggregated Albumin / administration & dosage
  • Tomography, Emission-Computed, Single-Photon / methods
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Ratio


  • Radiopharmaceuticals
  • Technetium Tc 99m Aggregated Albumin