Background: Pulmonary embolism (PE) remains a complex diagnostic problem. Many diagnostic modalities are available. Several published guidelines have failed to yield a uniform approach. We have assessed the current diagnostic and therapeutic management of patients with clinically suspected PE in the Netherlands.
Methods: A questionnaire was sent to internists and pulmonologists, who were then asked to detail their diagnostic and therapeutic management in their last patient seen with suspected PE.
Results: 1571 questionnaires were sent out (response rate 64%). 95% of the patients with suspected PE underwent a perfusion scan (in 91% within 24 h). 1.6% of the respondents had no available perfusion scan facility. Of those who underwent a perfusion scan, 62% had ventilation scan (66% with segmental defects, 80% with subsegmental defects, 27% with a normal perfusion scan). Tests for deep vein thrombosis were performed in 58% of the patients and pulmonary angiography was carried out in 6.1%. Anticoagulant treatment was instituted in 73.2% of all patients.
Conclusions: The perfusion lung scan is appropriately used as the initial step in the diagnostic workup of patients with suspected PE. Ventilation scanning is overused in patients with subsegmental perfusion defects and normal scan results, whereas it is underused in patients with segmental defects. Additional ventilation scan results had a limited influence on treatment decisions. There is still considerable overtreatment of patients with suspected PE.