Implementation of the YEARS algorithm to optimise pulmonary embolism diagnostic workup in the emergency department

BMJ Open Qual. 2023 May;12(2):e002119. doi: 10.1136/bmjoq-2022-002119.


Background: Excessive use of CT pulmonary angiography (CTPA) to investigate pulmonary embolism (PE) in the emergency department (ED) contributes to adverse patient outcomes. Non-invasive D-dimer testing, in the context of a clinical algorithm, may help decrease unnecessary imaging but this has not been widely implemented in Canadian EDs.

Aim: To improve the diagnostic yield of CTPA for PE by 5% (absolute) within 12 months of implementing the YEARS algorithm.

Measures and design: Single centre study of all ED patients >18 years investigated for PE with D-dimer and/or CTPA between February 2021 and January 2022. Primary and secondary outcomes were the diagnostic yield of CTPA and frequency of CTPA ordered compared with baseline. Process measures included the percentage of D-dimer tests ordered with CTPA and CTPAs ordered with D-dimers <500 µg/L Fibrinogen Equivalent Units (FEU). The balancing measure was the number of PEs identified on CTPA within 30 days of index visit. Multidisciplinary stakeholders developed plan- do-study-act cycles based on the YEARS algorithm.

Results: Over 12 months, 2695 patients were investigated for PE, of which 942 had a CTPA. Compared with baseline, the CTPA yield increased by 2.9% (12.6% vs 15.5%, 95% CI -0.06% to 5.9%) and the proportion of patients that underwent CTPA decreased by 11.4% (46.4% vs 35%, 95% CI -14.1% to -8.8%). The percentage of CTPAs ordered with a D-dimer increased by 26.3% (30.7% vs 57%, 95% CI 22.2% 30.3%) and there were two missed PE (2/2695, 0.07%).

Impact: Implementing the YEARS criteria may safely improve the diagnostic yield of CTPAs and reduce the number of CTPAs completed without an associated increase in missed clinically significant PEs. This project provides a model for optimising the use of CTPA in the ED.

Keywords: Clinical Decision-Making; Emergency department; Venous Thromboembolism.

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Canada
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Embolism* / diagnostic imaging