General practitioner use of D-dimer in suspected venous thromboembolism: historical cohort study in one geographical region in the Netherlands

Angel M. R. Schols, Eline Meijs, Geert-Jan Dinant, Henri E. J. H. Stoffers, Marielle M. E. Krekels, Jochen W. L. Cals*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Objectives To investigate how many general practitioner (GP)-referred venous thromboembolic events (VTEs) are diagnosed during 1 year in one geographical region and to investigate the (urgent) referral pathway of VTE diagnoses, including the role of laboratory D-dimer testing.

Design Historical cohort study.

Setting GP patients of 47 general practices in a demarcated geographical region of 161 503 inhabitants in the Netherlands.

Participants We analysed all 895 primary care patients in whom either the GP determined a D-dimer value or who had a diagnostic work-up for suspected VTE in a nonacademic hospital during 2015.

Primary and secondary outcome measures The primary outcomes of this study were the total number of VTEs per year and the diagnostic pathways-including the role of GP determined D-dimer testing-of patients urgently referred to secondary care for suspected VTE. Additionally, we explored the use of an age-adjusted D-dimer cut-off.

Results The annual VTE incidence was 0.9 per 1000 inhabitants. GPs annually ordered 5.1 D-dimer tests per 1000 inhabitants. Of 470 urgently GP-referred patients, 31.3% had a VTE. Of those urgently referred based on clinical assessment only (without D-dimer testing), 73.8% (96/130) had a VTE; based on clinical assessment and laboratory D-dimer testing yielded 15.0% (51/340) VTE. Applying age-adjusted D-dimer cut-offs to all patients aged 50 years or older resulted in a reduction of positive D-dimer results from 97.9% to 79.4%, without missing any VTE.

Conclusions Although D-dimer testing contributes to the diagnostic work-up of VTE, GPs have a high detection rate for VTE in patients who they urgently refer to secondary care based on clinical assessment only.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere026846
Number of pages6
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2019


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