Background: The incidence of pulmonary embolism has been increasing, but its case-fatality rate is decreasing, suggesting a lesser severity of illness. The clinical importance of patients with pulmonary embolism isolated to the subsegmental vessels is unknown.
Objective: To determine the rate of recurrent venous thromboembolism in patients with subsegmental pulmonary embolism managed without anticoagulation.
Design: Multicenter prospective cohort study. (ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01455818).
Setting: Eighteen sites between February 2011 and February 2021.
Patients: Patients with isolated subsegmental pulmonary embolism.
Intervention: At diagnosis, patients underwent bilateral lower-extremity venous ultrasonography, which was repeated 1 week later if results were negative. Patients without deep venous thrombosis did not receive anticoagulant therapy.
Measurements: The primary outcome was recurrent venous thromboembolism during the 90-day follow-up period.
Results: Recruitment was stopped prematurely because the predefined stopping rule was met after 292 of a projected 300 patients were enrolled. Of the 266 patients included in the primary analysis, the primary outcome occurred in 8 patients, for a cumulative incidence of 3.1% (95% CI, 1.6% to 6.1%) over the 90-day follow-up. The incidence of recurrent venous thromboembolism was 2.1% (CI, 0.8% to 5.5%) and 5.7% (CI, 2.2% to 14.4%) over the 90-day follow-up in patients with single and multiple isolated subsegmental pulmonary embolism, respectively. No patients had a fatal recurrent pulmonary embolism.
Limitation: The study was restricted to patients with low-risk subsegmental pulmonary embolism.
Conclusion: Overall, patients with subsegmental pulmonary embolism who did not have proximal deep venous thrombosis had a higher-than-expected rate of recurrent venous thromboembolism.
Primary funding source: Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and French Ministry of Health Programme Hospitalier de Recherche Clinique.