Comparison of the age-adjusted and clinical probability-adjusted D-dimer to exclude pulmonary embolism in the ED

Am J Emerg Med. 2019 May;37(5):845-850. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2018.07.053. Epub 2018 Jul 30.


Background: Diagnosing pulmonary embolism (PE) in the emergency department (ED) can be challenging because its signs and symptoms are non-specific.

Objective: We compared the efficacy and safety of using age-adjusted D-dimer interpretation, clinical probability-adjusted D-dimer interpretation and standard D-dimer approach to exclude PE in ED patients.

Design/methods: We performed a health records review at two emergency departments over a two-year period. We reviewed all cases where patients had a D-dimer ordered to test for PE or underwent CT or VQ scanning for PE. PE was considered to be present during the emergency department visit if PE was diagnosed on CT or VQ (subsegmental level or above), or if the patient was subsequently found to have PE or deep vein thrombosis during the next 30 days. We applied the three D-dimer approaches to the low and moderate probability patients. The primary outcome was exclusion of PE with each rule. Secondary objective was to estimate the negative predictive value (NPV) for each rule.

Results: 1163 emergency patients were tested for PE and 1075 patients were eligible for inclusion in our analysis. PE was excluded in 70.4% (95% CI 67.6-73.0%), 80.3% (95% CI 77.9-82.6%) and 68.9%; (95% CI 65.7-71.3%) with the age-adjusted, clinical probability-adjusted and standard D-dimer approach. The NPVs were 99.7% (95% CI 99.0-99.9%), 99.1% (95% CI 98.3-99.5%) and 100% (95% CI 99.4-100.0%) respectively.

Conclusion: The clinical probability-adjusted rule appears to exclude PE in a greater proportion of patients, with a very small reduction in the negative predictive value.

Keywords: D-dimer; Diagnostic imaging; Pulmonary embolism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Computed Tomography Angiography
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Female
  • Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnosis*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Ventilation-Perfusion Scan


  • Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products
  • fibrin fragment D