Alternative diagnoses in patients in whom the GP considered the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism

P.M.G. Erkens*, W.A.M. Lucassen, G.J. Geersing, H.C.P.M. van Weert, M. Kuijs-Augustijn, M. van Heugten, L. Rietjens, H. ten Cate, M.H. Prins, H.R. Büller, A.W. Hoes, K.G.M. Moons, R. Oudega, H.E.J.H. Stoffers

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


INTRODUCTION: Pulmonary embolism (PE) often presents with nonspecific symptoms and may be an easily missed diagnosis. When the differential diagnosis includes PE, an empirical list of frequently occurring alternative diagnoses could support the GP in diagnostic decision making. OBJECTIVES: To identify common alternative diagnoses in patients in whom the GP suspected PE but in whom PE could be ruled out. To investigate how the Wells clinical decision rule for PE combined with a point-of-care d-dimer test is associated with these alternative diagnoses. METHODS: Secondary analysis of the Amsterdam Maastricht Utrecht Study on thrombo-Embolism (Amuse-2) study, which validated the Wells PE rule combined with point-of-care d-dimer testing in primary care. All 598 patients had been referred to and diagnosed in secondary care. All diagnostic information was retrieved from the GPs' medical records. RESULTS: In 516 patients without PE, the most frequent alternative diagnoses were nonspecific thoracic pain/dyspnoea (42.6%), pneumonia (13.0%), myalgia (11.8%), asthma/chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (4.8%), panic disorder/hyperventilation (4.1%) and respiratory tract infection (2.3%). Pneumonia occurred almost as frequent as PE. Patients without PE with either a positive Wells rule (>4) or a positive d-dimer test, were more often (odds ratio = 2.1) diagnosed with a clinically relevant disease than patients with a negative Wells rule and negative d-dimer test. CONCLUSION: In primary care patients suspected of PE, the most common clinically relevant diagnosis other than PE was pneumonia. A positive Wells rule or a positive d-dimer test are not only positively associated with PE, but also with a high probability of other clinically relevant disease.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFamily Practice
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2014


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