Background: The diagnosis of pulmonary embolism is difficult because the clinical diagnosis is nonspecific and all of the objective tests have limitations. The assay for plasma d-dimer may be useful as an exclusion test if results are negative. We conducted a prospective cohort study that evaluated the clinical utility (usefulness) of an automated quantitative d-dimer test in the diagnosis of patients with suspected pulmonary embolism.
Methods: Consecutive eligible patients who had clinically suspected PE with nondiagnostic lung scans or negative helical CT scan of the chest results underwent d-dimer testing.
Results: The d-dimer results were negative in 11 of 103 inpatients (10.6%, 95% confidence interval [CI], 5.5 to 18.3%) and 7 of 22 outpatients (31.8%, 95% CI, 13.9 to 54.9%; p = 0.02).
Conclusions: Measurement of plasma d-dimer is of limited clinical utility for inpatients with clinically suspected pulmonary embolism and nondiagnostic lung scans or negative helical CT results at a US academic health center.