Elevated D-dimers and lack of anticoagulation predict PE in severe COVID-19 patients

Eur Respir J. 2020 Oct 22;56(4):2001811. doi: 10.1183/13993003.01811-2020. Print 2020 Oct.


Background: Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) may predispose to venous thromboembolism. We determined factors independently associated with computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA)-confirmed pulmonary embolism (PE) in hospitalised severe COVID-19 patients.

Methods: Among all (n=349) patients hospitalised for COVID-19 in a university hospital in a French region with a high rate of COVID-19, we analysed patients who underwent CTPA for clinical signs of severe disease (oxygen saturation measured by pulse oximetry ≤93% or breathing rate ≥30 breaths·min-1) or rapid clinical worsening. Multivariable analysis was performed using Firth penalised maximum likelihood estimates.

Results: 162 (46.4%) patients underwent CTPA (mean±sd age 65.6±13.0 years; 67.3% male (95% CI 59.5-75.5%). PE was diagnosed in 44 (27.2%) patients. Most PEs were segmental and the rate of PE-related right ventricular dysfunction was 15.9%. By multivariable analysis, the only two significant predictors of CTPA-confirmed PE were D-dimer level and the lack of any anticoagulant therapy (OR 4.0 (95% CI 2.4-6.7) per additional quartile and OR 4.5 (95% CI 1.1-7.4), respectively). Receiver operating characteristic curve analysis identified a D-dimer cut-off value of 2590 ng·mL-1 to best predict occurrence of PE (area under the curve 0.88, p<0.001, sensitivity 83.3%, specificity 83.8%). D-dimer level >2590 ng·mL-1 was associated with a 17-fold increase in the adjusted risk of PE.

Conclusion: Elevated D-dimers (>2590 ng·mL-1) and absence of anticoagulant therapy predict PE in hospitalised COVID-19 patients with clinical signs of severity. These data strengthen the evidence base in favour of systematic anticoagulation, and suggest wider use of D-dimer guided CTPA to screen for PE in acutely ill hospitalised patients with COVID-19.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anticoagulants / administration & dosage*
  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Computed Tomography Angiography
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Coronavirus Infections / epidemiology
  • Female
  • Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products / metabolism*
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Oximetry
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • Pneumonia, Viral / epidemiology
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Pulmonary Embolism / etiology*
  • Pulmonary Embolism / prevention & control*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Sensitivity and Specificity


  • Anticoagulants
  • Fibrin Fibrinogen Degradation Products
  • fibrin fragment D