Value of perfusion lung scan in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism: results of the Prospective Investigative Study of Acute Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis (PISA-PED)

Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 1996 Nov;154(5):1387-93. doi: 10.1164/ajrccm.154.5.8912753.


To assess the value of perfusion lung scan in the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, we prospectively evaluated 890 consecutive patients with suspected pulmonary embolism. Prior to lung scanning, each patient was assigned a clinical probability of pulmonary embolism (very likely, possible, unlikely). Perfusion scans were independently classified as follows: (1) normal, (2) near-normal, (3) abnormal compatible with pulmonary embolism (PE+: single or multiple wedge-shaped perfusion defects), or (4) abnormal not compatible with pulmonary embolism (PE-: perfusion defects other than wedge-shaped). The study design required pulmonary angiography and clinical and scintigraphic follow-up in all patients with abnormal scans. Of 890 scans, 220 were classified as normal/or near-normal and 670 as abnormal. A definitive diagnosis was established in 563 (84%) patients with abnormal scans. The overall prevalence of pulmonary embolism was 39%. Most patients with angiographically proven pulmonary embolism had PE+ scans (sensitivity: 92%). Conversely, most patients without emboli on angiography had PE- scans (specificity: 87%). A PE+ scan associated with a very likely or possible clinical presentation of pulmonary embolism had positive predictive values of 99 and 92%, respectively. A PE- scan paired with an unlikely clinical presentation had a negative predictive value of 97%. Clinical assessment combined with perfusion-scan evaluation established or excluded pulmonary embolism in the majority of patients with abnormal scans. Our data indicate that accurate diagnosis of pulmonary embolism is possible by perfusion scanning alone, without ventilation imaging. Combining perfusion scanning with clinical assessment helps to restrict the need for angiography to a minority of patients with suspected pulmonary embolism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Bayes Theorem
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Perfusion
  • Prospective Studies
  • Pulmonary Embolism / classification
  • Pulmonary Embolism / diagnostic imaging*
  • Radionuclide Angiography
  • Sensitivity and Specificity