Importance: The prevalence of pulmonary embolism in patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and acutely worsening respiratory symptoms remains uncertain.
Objective: To determine the prevalence of pulmonary embolism in patients with COPD admitted to the hospital for acutely worsening respiratory symptoms.
Design, setting, and participants: Multicenter cross-sectional study with prospective follow-up conducted in 7 French hospitals. A predefined pulmonary embolism diagnostic algorithm based on Geneva score, D-dimer levels, and spiral computed tomographic pulmonary angiography plus leg compression ultrasound was applied within 48 hours of admission; all patients had 3-month follow-up. Patients were recruited from January 2014 to May 2017 and the final date of follow-up was August 22, 2017.
Exposures: Acutely worsening respiratory symptoms in patients with COPD.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was pulmonary embolism diagnosed within 48 hours of admission. Key secondary outcome was pulmonary embolism during a 3-month follow-up among patients deemed not to have venous thromboembolism at admission and who did not receive anticoagulant treatment. Other outcomes were venous thromboembolism (pulmonary embolism and/or deep vein thrombosis) at admission and during follow-up, and 3-month mortality, whether venous thromboembolism was clinically suspected or not.
Results: Among 740 included patients (mean age, 68.2 years [SD, 10.9 years]; 274 women [37.0%]), pulmonary embolism was confirmed within 48 hours of admission in 44 patients (5.9%; 95% CI, 4.5%-7.9%). Among the 670 patients deemed not to have venous thromboembolism at admission and who did not receive anticoagulation, pulmonary embolism occurred in 5 patients (0.7%; 95% CI, 0.3%-1.7%) during follow-up, including 3 deaths related to pulmonary embolism. The overall 3-month mortality rate was 6.8% (50 of 740; 95% CI, 5.2%-8.8%). The proportion of patients who died during follow-up was higher among those with venous thromboembolism at admission than the proportion of those without it at admission (14 [25.9%] of 54 patients vs 36 [5.2%] of 686; risk difference, 20.7%, 95% CI, 10.7%-33.8%; P < .001). The prevalence of venous thromboembolism was 11.7% (95% CI, 8.6%-15.9%) among patients in whom pulmonary embolism was suspected (n = 299) and was 4.3% (95% CI, 2.8%-6.6%) among those in whom pulmonary embolism was not suspected (n = 441).
Conclusions and relevance: Among patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease admitted to the hospital with an acute worsening of respiratory symptoms, pulmonary embolism was detected in 5.9% of patients using a predefined diagnostic algorithm. Further research is needed to understand the possible role of systematic screening for pulmonary embolism in this patient population.