Postgrad Med. 2021 Apr 29. doi: 10.1080/00325481.2021.1920723. Online ahead of print.
Accumulating studies on COVID-19 patients report high incidences of thrombotic complications, but guidance on the best diagnostic approach for suspected pulmonary embolism (PE) in COVID-19 patients is lacking. Diagnosing PE in these patients is challenging as signs and symptoms of PE and COVID-19 show wide overlap, D-dimer levels are often elevated in the absence of thrombosis and computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) may be unfeasible in the case of severe renal impairment and/or hemodynamic instability.This narrative review discusses available literature and guidelines on current diagnostic algorithms for suspected PE in special patient populations, in particular COVID-19. A special focus is on reviewing the literature aimed at identifying symptoms with a high suspicion for PE and on the diagnostic performance of diagnostic algorithms for suspected PE in the setting of COVID-19.Based on available literature, the index of suspicion for PE should be high in the case of unexplained abrupt worsening of respiratory status, typical symptoms of deep-vein thrombosis and/or acute unexplained right ventricular dysfunction. Despite the lack of prospective diagnostic management studies, we propose to adhere to current diagnostic algorithms applying assessment of pre-test probability and D-dimer testing as available evidence suggests that these might be considered safe. Preferably, algorithms using adjusted D-dimer thresholds are recommended as it likely improves the yield of the clinical decision rule/D-dimer combination.