CT pulmonary angiography is the first-line imaging test for acute pulmonary embolism: A survey of US clinicians

Clifford R. Weiss, John C. Scatarige, Gregory B. Diette, Edward F. Haponik, Barry Merriman, Elliot K. Fishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

90 Scopus citations


Rationale and Objectives. Our aim is to document current imaging practices for diagnosing acute pulmonary embolism (PE) among physicians practicing in the United States and explore factors associated with these practices. Materials and Methods. Between September 2004 and February 2005, we surveyed by mail 855 physicians selected at random from membership lists of three professional organizations. Physicians reported their imaging practices and experiences in managing patients with suspected acute PE during the preceding 12 months. Results. Completed questionnaires were received from 240 of 806 eligible participants (29.8%) practicing in 44 states: 86.7% of respondents believed that computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) was the most useful imaging procedure for patients with acute PE compared with 8.3% for ventilation- perfusion (V-P) scintigraphy and 2.5% for conventional pulminary angiography (PA). After chest radiography, CTPA was the first imaging test requested 71.4% of the time compared with V-P scintigraphy (19.7%) and lower-limb venous ultrasound (5.8%). Participants received indeterminate or inconclusive results 46.4% of the time for V-P scintigraphy, 10.6% of the time for CTPA, and 2.2% of the time for PA. CTPA was available around the clock to 88.3% of participants compared with 53.8% for V-P scintigraphy and 42.5% for PA. A total of 68.6% of respondents received CTPA results in 2 hours or less (vs 37.5% for V-P scintigraphy and 22.9% for PA). CTPA also provided an alternative diagnosis to PE or showed other significant abnormalities 28.5% of the time, and these findings frequently altered management. Conclusion. US clinicians unequivocally prefer CTPA in patients with suspected acute PE. Reasons for this preference include availability and timely reporting, a lower rate of inconclusive results, and the additional diagnostic capabilities that CTPA can provide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)434-446
Number of pages13
JournalAcademic radiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2006


  • Acute pulmonary embolism
  • Computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA)
  • Pulmonary angiography
  • Survey
  • Ventilation-perfusion scintigraphy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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