Quality of referrals for lower extremity ultrasonography and computed tomography pulmonary angiography and associations with positive findings of venous thromboembolism

Radiography (Lond). 2024 May;30(3):799-805. doi: 10.1016/j.radi.2024.03.002. Epub 2024 Mar 16.


Introduction: The referral is the basis for radiologists' assessment of modality, protocol and urgency, and insufficient information may threaten patient safety. The aim of this study was to assess the completeness of referrals for lower extremity venous duplex ultrasonography (LEVDUS) and computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA), and to investigate associations between the provided clinical information including risk factors, symptoms and lab results in the referrals and positive findings of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (PE), respectively.

Methods: Referrals for LEVDUS (801) and CTPA (800) performed from 2016 to 2019 were obtained. Three categories of clinical information from the referrals were recorded: symptoms, risk factors and laboratory results, as well as positive imaging findings of venous thromboembolism (VTE). Referral completeness was rated from zero to three according to how many categories of clinical information the referral provided.

Results: Information from all three clinical information categories was provided in 15% and 25% of referrals for LEVDUS and CTPA, respectively, while 2% and 10% of referrals did not contain any clinical information. Symptoms were provided most often (85% for LEVDUS and 94% for CTPA). Provided information about risk factors was significantly associated with positive findings for LEVDUS, (p = 0.02) and CTPA (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: A great majority of referrals failed to provide one or more categories of clinical information. Risk factors were associated with a positive finding of VTE on LEVDUS and CTPA.

Implications for practice: Improving clinical information in referrals may improve justification, patient safety and quality of radiology services.

Keywords: Clinical information; Computed tomography angiography; Health care quality; Referral; Ultrasonography; Venous thromboembolism.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Computed Tomography Angiography* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lower Extremity* / blood supply
  • Lower Extremity* / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging
  • Referral and Consultation*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Duplex / methods
  • Venous Thromboembolism* / diagnostic imaging