Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism

Duplex Ultrasound
A duplex ultrasound is the most common test used to make a deep vein thrombosis diagnosis. This test uses sound waves to evaluate the flow of blood in your veins. This test involves the following steps:
  • A gel is put on the skin of the leg
  • A handheld device is placed on the leg and passed back and forth over the affected area
  • This device sends sound waves from the leg to an ultrasound machine
  • A computer then turns the sounds into a picture
  • The picture is displayed on a TV screen, where your doctor can see the blood flow in your leg.
This is an indirect way to diagnose a source of pulmonary embolism.
Blood Work
Blood work is used to check for inherited disorders that cause clots. A blood test measures the amount of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood (arterial blood gas), because a pulmonary embolism may change the levels of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the blood.

Additional Tests Used in Diagnosing Pulmonary Embolism

Other tests used to make a pulmonary embolism diagnosis include:
  • Ventilation/perfusion lung scan (V/Q scan)
  • Pulmonary angiography
  • Spiral computed tomography (CT) scan
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Echocardiogram
  • D-dimer.
Ventilation/Perfusion Lung Scan (V/Q Scan)
A V/Q scan is a test that uses a radioactive material to see how well air and blood are flowing to all areas of the lung.
Pulmonary Angiography
A pulmonary angiography is an accurate, invasive test that is used to diagnose pulmonary embolism. A trained specialist will thread a flexible tube called a catheter through the groin or arm to the blood vessels in the lung. The specialist will then inject a dye to take a picture of the blood flow through the blood vessels in the lungs. This test is not available at all hospitals, and a trained specialist is required to perform this test.

Pulmonary Embolism Information

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