Systematic review and meta-analysis of pregnant patients investigated for suspected pulmonary embolism in the emergency department

Jeffrey A. Kline, Danielle M. Richardson, Martin P. Than, Andrea Penaloza, Pierre Marie Roy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Scopus citations


Objectives: Pregnancy causes a small increase in risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE), but a large increase in concern upon presentation to an emergency department (ED) with symptoms of pulmonary embolism (PE), which may cause physicians to employ a low test threshold. This was a systematic review with the hypothesis that symptomatic pregnant patients in the ED have a low relative risk (RR) for VTE outcome. Methods: Studies in all languages were identified by structured search of PubMed, EMBASE, the Cochrane library, and bibliographies in February 2014. Papers with ED patients evaluated for possible PE that included pregnancy status, and had adequate reference standards, were included. An outcome of VTE (either deep venous thrombosis [DVT] or PE) was considered disease-positive (VTE+). Papers were assessed for selection and publication bias, and heterogeneity (I2). The random effects model was used if I2 > 24%. Results: Seventeen full-length studies of 25,339 patients were analyzed. Pooled data showed I2 = 0% with a symmetrical funnel plot. Two small studies with less than 1% of all patients had evidence of selection bias. The frequency of VTE+ rate among the 506 pregnant patients was 4.1% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 2.6% to 6.0%), compared with 12.4% (95% CI = 9.0% to 16.3%) among nonpregnant patients. The pooled RR of pregnancy for VTE+ diagnosis was 0.60 (95% CI = 0.41 to 0.87). Patients in the third trimester had a RR of 0.85 (95% CI = 0.40 to 1.77), and patients of childbearing age (≤45 years) had a RR of 0.56 (95% CI = 0.34 to 0.93). Conclusions: In the ED setting, physicians test for PE in pregnant patients at a low threshold, resulting in a low rate of VTE diagnosis and a RR of VTE that is lower than that for nonpregnant women of childbearing age who are tested for PE in the ED setting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)949-959
Number of pages11
JournalAcademic Emergency Medicine
Issue number9
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine

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