Original articles

Pulmorary embolism: a difficult diagnostic problem

Andrzej Łabyk, Anna Kalbarczyk, Agata Piaszczyk, Maciej Kostrubiec, Anna Kaczyńska, Anna Bochowicz, Piotr Pruszczyk
Published online: March 01, 2007


Introduction. The mortality of untreated pulmonary embolism (PE) is estimated at approximately 30% of patients, whereas treatment decreases it to 2–8%. A specific combination of symptoms present in PE may suggest other cardiac or lung disorder.

Objectives. To evaluate frequencies of clinical symptoms and changes in diagnostic investigations misleading to the recognition of acute coronary syndrome (ACS) or lung diseases (Ld) in PE patients.

Patients and Methods. Retrospective analysis of 154 records of individuals with recognized PE allowed to divide patients into groups suggestive of ACS (min. 2 of: chest pain, ischemic changes on electrocardiogram (ECG) and elevated cardiac troponin T level [cTnT >0.01 ng/ml]) or suggestive of the Ld (min. 2 of: dyspnea, cough, fever, lung consolidations on chest radiograph).

Results. Fifty-five (36%) patients were classified to the ACS group and 54 (35%) to Ld group, while 69 (45%) patients were not included to either group. Twenty-four (16%) patients fulfilled criteria of both groups. There were no significant differences in the frequency of coronary heart disease, heart failure, atrial fibrillation and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease between groups. Elevated troponin level was observed in 68% of patients with chest pain and changes on ECG, and in 26% of patients without coexistence of these symptoms (P <0.05).

Conclusions. In most patients with final diagnosis of PE, symptoms and initial investigation results can mislead to the diagnosis of ACS or lung disease. The chest pain and ischemic changes on ECG are frequently associated with the myocardial injury resulting in increased troponin levels in PE patients.

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