Determinants of plasma fibrin D-dimer sensitivity for acute pulmonary embolism as defined by pulmonary angiography

John A. Heit, Thomas A. Minor, James C. Andrews, Dirk R. Larson, Hongzhe Li, William L. Nichols

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

46 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background. - The reported operating characteristics of the plasma fibrin D-dimer level for the diagnosis of acute pulmonary embolism vary widely. Objective. - To determine the sensitivity, specificity, predictive value, and clinical utility of the D-dimer for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, and to describe the effect of D-dimer assay method (enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay [ELISA], latex agglutination, membrane ELISA) and discriminate level, patient location at onset, comorbid disease, duration and intensity of concurrent heparin administration, and duration of symptoms on these operating characteristics. Design. - Prospective laboratory investigation. Setting. - Community and tertiary care teaching hospital. Patients. - Consecutive patients with suspected acute pulmonary embolism referred for pulmonary angiography from April 1993 through March 1996. Measurements. - Baseline characteristics, the duration and intensity of heparin anticoagulation, the time interval between symptom onset and plasma D-dimer testing, pulmonary angiography, and the D-dimer level on the day of pulmonary angiography. Results. - Of 105 consenting patients, 33 (31%) had a positive pulmonary angiogram. The D-dimer sensitivity/negative predictive value for the ELISA, latex agglutination (American Bioproducts Co/Diagnostica Stago and Biopool International), and membrane ELISA were 100%/100%, 94%/94%, 100%/100%, and 97%/96%, respectively, at a discriminate level of 250 μg/L or less. The clinical utility, defined as the prevalence of a negative test, ranged from 17% to 33%. D-dimer sensitivity was unaffected by patient location at onset, comorbid disease, or heparin therapy but was inversely related to the duration of symptoms. Conclusions. - The sensitivity of the plasma fibrin D-dimer for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism depends on the assay method, the assay-specific discriminate level, and the duration of symptoms. At the appropriate discriminate level, the plasma D-dimer is a sensitive but nonspecific test for the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)235-240
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine
Volume123
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 22 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Medical Laboratory Technology

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    Heit, J. A., Minor, T. A., Andrews, J. C., Larson, D. R., Li, H., & Nichols, W. L. (1999). Determinants of plasma fibrin D-dimer sensitivity for acute pulmonary embolism as defined by pulmonary angiography. Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, 123(3), 235-240.