SAN ANTONIO—The recommended approach to evaluating suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) is “greatly underutilized” in the Veterans Health Administration system, according to a speaker at CHEST 2018.
A survey showed that, contrary to guideline recommendations, most Veterans Affairs sites did not require incorporation of a clinical decision rule (CDR) and D-dimer prior to the ordering of computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) for suspected PE.
Therefore, CTPA was overused.
Nancy Hsu, MD, a pulmonologist in Los Angeles, California, discussed this finding at the meeting.
She noted that CTPA has become the imaging modality of choice for evaluating suspected PE, but it is overused and potentially avoidable in one-third of cases.
“In the 10 years following the advent of CTPA use, there was a 14-fold increase in usage, but there was no change in mortality,” Dr. Hsu said. “This is consistent with overdiagnosis.”
Indiscriminate use of CTPA results in unnecessary and avoidable radiation exposure, contrast-related reactions, and treatment-related bleeding, Dr. Hsu noted.
She and a colleague discovered CTPA overuse in the Veterans Health Administration system by conducting a survey of stakeholders at 18 Veterans Integrated Service Networks and 143 medical centers.
A total of 120 fully completed questionnaires were analyzed. Most respondents (63%) were chief physicians, and 80% had 11 or more years of experience.
Most respondents (85%) said CDR with or without D-dimer was not required before ordering CTPA. Less than 7% of respondents said they required both CDR and D-dimer before CTPA.
The biggest barrier to optimal practice may be the fear of having a patient who “falls through the cracks” based on false-negative CDR and D-dimer data, according to Dr. Hsu.
On the other hand, judicious use of CTPA likely avoids negative sequelae related to radiation, contrast exposure, and treatment-related bleeding, she said.
Dr. Hsu and her colleague, Guy Soo Hoo, MD, said they had no relationships relevant to this research.