Patients with suspected pulmonary embolism (PE), including those in Arlington Heights, often undergo computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) to confirm or exclude the diagnosis. However, CTPA exposes them to radiation, the risk of contrast-induced nephropathy, and increases health care costs. Therefore ways to reduce the use of CTPA in this setting are required.
Findings presented at ESC Congress 2016, suggest a simple diagnostic algorithm can be used to rule out PE in a significant number of these patients, eliminating their need for CTPA.
The advantage of the YEARS algorithm over existing algorithms is a 14% reduction in the need for CTPA imaging and with that, reduced potential for radiation-induced harm and overdiagnosis.
Unlike other, multi-item, sequential algorithms used to assess PE risk, the YEARS clinical decision rule consists of one blood test and 3 items of the original Wells rule.
Patients presenting to the emergency department can be evaluated based on:
- clinical signs of deep vein thrombosis (e.g., swelling, edema);
- hemoptysis (coughing up blood);
- and whether the clinician considers PE to be “the most likely diagnosis”
Using this information combined with results of a blood test measuring D-dimer – a protein produced by blood clots – clinicians can either exclude PE, or recommend a CTPA for definitive diagnosis.
The YEARS study prospectively evaluated this algorithm in 3,465 patients (mean age 53 years), 88% of whom were outpatients.
Based on the algorithm, PE was excluded and CPTA was withheld in 1,651 patients who either had: no YEARS items and a D-dimer level <1000 ng/mL; or one or more YEARS items and a D-dimer level <500 ng/mL.
All other patients were referred for CTPA.
Patients in whom PE was excluded were left untreated and followed for 3 months, while those diagnosed with PE were treated with anticoagulants.
The primary outcome of the study was the 3-month incidence of symptomatic venous thromboembolism (VTE), which occurred in 0.43% of patients who had PE excluded based on the YEARS algorithm alone and 0.84% of the patients who had PE excluded based on CTPA.
Using the YEARS algorithm, CTPA was not indicated in 48% of patients at baseline, but this would have been only 34% of patients using the traditional algorithm. This shows that the YEARS algorithm can safely exclude PE and resulted in an absolute reduction of required CPTA of 14%.”