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The advantages of multi-detector computed tomography (MDCT) have made it the imaging modality of choice for some patients with suspected cardiothoracic disease, of which pulmonary embolism (PE) is an exponent. The aim of this study was to assess the incidence of PE in patients with clinical suspicion of acute PE using MDCT in a sub-Saharan setting, and to describe the demographic characteristics of these patients.
Consecutive records of patients who underwent MDCT pulmonary angiography for suspected acute PE over a two-year period at the Radiology Department of a university-affiliated hospital were systematically reviewed. All MDCT pulmonary angiograms were performed with a 16-detector computed tomography (CT) scanner using real-time bolus tracking technique. Authorization for the study was obtained from the institutional authorities.
Forty-one MDCT pulmonary angiograms were reviewed of which 37 were retained. Of the 4 excluded studies, 3 were repeat angiograms and 1 study was not technically adequate. Twelve of 37 patients (32.4%) had CT angiograms that were positive for PE, of which 7 were males. The mean age of these patients was 47.6±10.5 years (age range from 33 to 65 years). Twenty five patients out of 37 (67.6%) had CT angiograms that were negative for PE. Eleven PE-positive patients (91.7%) had at least 1 identifiable thromboembolic risk factor whilst 5 PE-negative patients (20%) also had at least a thromboembolic risk factor. The relative risk of the occurrence of PE in patients with at least a thromboembolic risk factor was estimated at 14.4.
Acute PE is a reality in sub-Saharan Africa, with an increased likelihood of MDCT evidence in patients with clinical suspicion of PE who have at least a thromboembolic risk factor. The increasing availability of MDCT will help provide more information on the occurrence of PE in these settings.