Clinical features in patients with pulmonary embolism at a community hospital: Analysis of 4 years of data

Navin Bajaj, Andrew L. Bozarth, Juan Guillot, Joseph KojoKittah, Sri Ram Appalaneni, Cesar Cestero, Raymond Kofi Amankona, James A. Pippim

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

26 Scopus citations


The aim of this study is to assess the various clinical features, risk factors, and electrocardiographic (EKG) findings associated with acute pulmonary embolism (PE). Knowledge gained from the study may enable health care providers in diagnosis of PE, thus allowing them to carry out appropriate diagnostic testing and treatment after recognition of this potentially lethal disease. PE is common but frequently under-diagnosed clinical problem, associated with potentially fatal outcomes. Clinical presentation is highly variable, non-specific and most patients have an underlying identifiable risk factor. The presentation of PE can easily be confused with other cardio-pulmonary or systemic disorders. Prompt diagnosis of this potentially deadly disease is of utmost importance. Knowledge of salient features associated with PE may enable health care providers in diagnosis of PE, thus allowing them to carry out appropriate diagnostic testing and treatment after its recognition. We performed a single-center, cross-sectional descriptive study including all inpatient and emergency department encounters ≥18 years of age diagnosed with PE at our institution, a 300-bed inner city community hospital, during the dates January 2007 to December 2010. All patients were diagnosed with multi-detector 64-slice spiral computed tomography angiography. Using a standardized form, we performed simultaneous retrospective chart review to collect the necessary data required for the study. PE was confirmed in 334 patients during the 4 years study period. Mean age of subjects was 65.8 years (±16.4, range 22-98). Females represented 54 % of study subjects. Dyspnea, chest pain, and cough were present in 72, 38, and 19 % of the patients, respectively. Dyspnea was the only presenting symptom in 29 %. Tachypnea, hypoxia, tachycardia, and signs of DVT were present in 39, 35, 33, and 29 %, respectively. Cancer was most common risk factor present in 27 %, followed by prior history of venous thromboembolism (DVT or PE), immobilization, and surgery in 19, 15, and 15, respectively. EKG interpretation revealed normal sinus rhythm in 53 %, sinus tachycardia in 31 %, S1Q3T3 pattern in 6 %, and atrial fibrillation (AF) in 6 %.We also noted that 8 % of elderly patients had new onset AF at the time of diagnosis of PE. Diagnosis of PE remains a challenging task due to its variable presentation. Many of the classical features associated with this potentially fatal disease are often missing. This data re-emphasizes a wide spectrum of clinical presentation and non-specificity of symptoms of PE. Clinical suspicion of PE is a critical step and of paramount importance for further objective investigations, which would assist in the diagnosis and appropriate timely management of PE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)287-292
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Thrombosis and Thrombolysis
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014



  • Clinical features
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Pulmonary embolism (PE)
  • Signs
  • Symptoms
  • Venous thromboembolism (VTE)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine

Cite this