Study objective: To review the published experience with gadolinium-enhanced magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) for the detection of acute pulmonary embolism (PE) in order to test the hypothesis that gadolinium-enhanced MRA may be potentially sensitive and specific enough to include it among diagnostic alternatives in the evaluation of patients with suspected PE.
Methods: Studies were identified by searching MEDLINE for trials that used gadolinium-enhanced MRA to diagnose acute PE based on the visualization of an intraluminal filling defect or a cutoff vessel, using pulmonary angiography as a reference standard.
Results: Twenty-eight investigations were identified in which MRA was used to diagnose PE. Only three studies, however, met the criteria for inclusion in the analysis. In these three case series, the sensitivity of gadolinium-enhanced MRA ranged from 77 to 100%, and the specificity ranged from 95 to 98%.
Conclusion: Gadolinium-enhanced MRA may be a useful diagnostic alternative in some patients with suspected acute PE, particularly if they have an elevated creatinine level, have an allergy to radiographic contrast material, or should, if possible, avoid exposure to ionizing radiation.