Short-term Mortality in Acute Pulmonary Embolism: Clot Burden and Signs of Right Heart Dysfunction at CT Pulmonary Angiography

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In patients with acute pulmonary embolism, right heart dilatation was associated with higher risk of short-term mortality along with history of congestive heart failure and cancer.


To assess the correlation between volumetric measurements of clot, semiquantitative clot burden indexes, and signs of right heart dysfunction at computed tomographic (CT) pulmonary angiography in patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) and to determine whether clot burden and signs of right heart dysfunction are associated with short-term mortality.

Materials and Methods

This retrospective study was institutional review board approved and HIPAA compliant. CT pulmonary angiographic studies (January 2007 through December 2007) with findings positive for PE were retrieved. Two readers evaluated signs of right heart dysfunction at CT pulmonary angiography, measured clot volume using a dedicated software program, and assessed clot burden using semiquantitative scores (Qanadli and Mastora). Spearman rank coefficient was used to investigate correlation between clot burden measures and signs of right heart dysfunction. Uni- and multivariate analyses were used to test association between CT pulmonary angiographic findings and short-term mortality.


A total of 635 CT pulmonary angiographic studies from 635 patients (304 men, 331 women; mean age, 59 years) were included; 39 (6%) patients died within 30 days. Clot volume was strongly correlated with Qanadli score (ρ = 0.841, P < .01) and Mastora score (ρ = 0.863, P < .01) and moderately correlated (ρ = 0.378, P < .01) with the ratio of right ventricle diameter to left ventricle diameter (RV/LV ratio). Among the pulmonary angiographic signs, only increase in RV/LV ratio (cut-off value, 1.0) was independently associated with short-term mortality in multivariate analysis.


Clot volume strongly correlated with semiquantitative CT scores of clot burden, and greater clot volume was associated with higher incidence of right heart dilatation. Increase in RV/LV ratio was associated with short-term mortality; however, measures of clot burden were not.

© RSNA, 2012

Supplemental material:


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Article History

Received April 19, 2011; revision requested June 9; revision received January 31, 2012; accepted March 19; final version accepted May 18.
Published online: Oct 2012
Published in print: Oct 2012