Study of compliance with a clinical pathway for suspected pulmonary embolism

B. J H Ng*, S. Lindstrom

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Background/Aims: Clinical pathways to guide the investigation of suspected pulmonary embolism have been increasingly adopted by emergency departments worldwide. This study evaluated the compliance with a clinical pathway that combines risk assessment (Wells score) with d-dimer, ventilation-perfusion scanning or computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA). The aims of this study were to identify factors that contribute to compliance and to assess patient outcomes and resource utilization. Methods: Repeated retrospective chart reviews of 239 patients who underwent investigation for pulmonary embolism through our emergency department extracted patient demographics, pathway parameters and patient outcomes. A phone interview at 3-month follow up was carried out. Results: Incidence of pulmonary embolism was 8.4% (n= 20). Compliance to the clinical pathway occurred in 120 subjects (50.2%). Non-compliance occurred in 71 subjects (29.7%). Forty-eight subjects (20.1%) underwent risk assessments, but subsequent diagnostic tests did not conform to the stated pathway (partial compliance). Compliance was poor in subjects assessed by non-emergency department doctors (χ 2= 27.95, P≤ 0.001). Compliance occurred less in pregnant subjects (χ 2= 7.27, P= 0.007) and those with chronic respiratory disease (χ 2= 5.31, P= 0.021). Subjects in the compliant group were less likely to undergo CTPA (odds ratio 2.07 (1.16-3.70), P= 0.012). Conclusions: Compliance with this clinical pathway allowed emergency department doctors in an Australian university teaching hospital to complete diagnostic testing for suspected pulmonary embolism appropriately unless non-emergency department doctors became involved. Compliance with this pathway altered the distribution of diagnostic tests performed with less reliance on CTPA, but was not associated with better patient outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-257
Number of pages7
JournalInternal Medicine Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Emergency service
  • Guideline adherence
  • Hospital/standard
  • Pulmonary embolism/diagnosis
  • Retrospective study


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