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Role of spiral volumetric computed tomographic scanning in the assessment of patients with clinical suspicion of pulmonary embolism and an abnormal ventilation/perfusion lung scan.
  1. A. B. van Rossum,
  2. F. E. Treurniet,
  3. G. J. Kieft,
  4. S. J. Smith,
  5. R. Schepers-Bok
  1. Department of Diagnostic Radiology, Leyenburg Hospital, Hague, Netherlands.


    BACKGROUND: A study was carried out to evaluate the potential place of spiral volumetric computed tomography (SVCT) in the diagnostic strategy for pulmonary embolism. METHODS: In a prospective study 249 patients with clinical suspicion of pulmonary embolism were evaluated with various imaging techniques. In all patients a ventilation/perfusion (V/Q) scan was performed. Seventy seven patients with an abnormal V/Q scan underwent SVCT. Pulmonary angiography was then performed in all 42 patients with a non-diagnostic V/Q scan and in three patients with a high probability V/Q scan without emboli on the SVCT scan. Patients with an abnormal perfusion scan also underwent ultrasonography of the legs for the detection of deep vein thrombosis. RESULTS: One hundred and seventy two patients (69%) had a normal V/Q scan. Forty two patients (17%) had a non-diagnostic V/Q scan, and in five of these patients pulmonary emboli were found both by SVCT and pulmonary angiography. In one patient, although SVCT showed no emboli, the angiogram was positive for pulmonary embolism. In one of the 42 patients the SVCT scan showed an embolus which was not confirmed by pulmonary angiography. The other 35 patients showed no sign of emboli. Thirty five patients (14%) had a high probability V/Q scan, and in 32 patients emboli were seen on SVCT images. Two patients had both a negative SVCT scan and a negative pulmonary angiogram. In one who had an inconclusive SVCT scan pulmonary angiography was positive. The sensitivity for pulmonary embolism was 95% and the specificity 97%; the positive and negative predicted values of SVCT were 97% and 97%, respectively. CONCLUSIONS: SVCT is a relatively noninvasive test for pulmonary embolism which is both sensitive and specific and which may serve as an alternative to ventilation scintigraphy and possibly to pulmonary angiography in the diagnostic strategy for pulmonary embolism.

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