Introduction Suspected Pulmonary Embolism (PE) is a significant cause of admission to hospital. The objective of this study was to establish the feasibility and safety of managing suspected and proven PE in an out-patient setting.
Methods Criteria for low risk patients with suspected PE suitable for treatment in an ambulatory setting were established based on modified Pulmonary Embolism Severity Score (PESI) criteria. Patients deemed low risk were referred to a nurse-led clinic. Clinical pre-test probability of PE was recorded for all patients and those with a low/intermediate probability had D-dimer testing. Patients with a high pre-test probability or D-dimer=0.5 μg/ml had radiological investigations. Data were collected prospectively. Missing information was completed from pathology, imaging systems and case-note review.
Results 362 patients (Median age 46, Female 70%) with suspected PE were referred to the ambulatory clinic in 12 months from June 2010. 269 (74%) patients presented with chest pain. 145 patients (40%) had a negative D-dimer and were discharged. 210 patients (58%) had subsequent imaging in the form of 65 (31%) VQ scan, 138 (66%) CT scan, 7 (3%) both. Median time to imaging was 1 day (range 0–5 days). 34 patients were diagnosed with PE (9%). 11 patients (3%) were admitted, of which 5 (45%) were due to right heart strain. Likelihood of PE correlated strongly to clinical probability (low 2%, intermediate 14%, high 42%). One patient with a negative D-Dimer and intermediate clinical probability was diagnosed with PE. 294 (81%) patients were discharged with no follow-up, 28 (8%) patients were followed-up by consultant care. One patient admitted as they did not meet criteria for ambulatory care (tachycardia) had a cardiorespiratory arrest as an inpatient due to massive PE but was successfully resuscitated. To date three patients have (0.8%) died since attending the clinic, no death was related to PE. Savings to PCTs were estimated at £120 000 over 12 months.
Conclusion Selected patients with suspected and proven PE may be managed safely in an ambulatory PE clinic setting resulting in significant savings to the healthcare community.