UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Vascular

Title: Ruling Out Pulmonary Embolism During Pregnancy

Keywords: Pulmonary Embolism, Pregnancy (PubMed Search)

Posted: 7/14/2008 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 4/22/2024)
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Evaluating for Pulmonary Embolism During Pregnancy

Highest risk of PE is within the first week postpartum

Acceptable, safe, and medico-legally sound strategies to rule out PE in pregnancy:

  • Pulmonary CTA-this strategy is safe and accepted. Plenty of data to support you if you choose this strategy. Some evidence recently that shielding the baby may actually increase scatter radiation to the fetus. Check with your Radiologist. 
  • V/Q scan-also an acceptable strategy. Probably more radiation to the fetus. If you choose this test, remember that many experts recommend you insert a foley to drain the bladder (reduces radiation exposure to the fetus). 
  • Negative PERC (Pulmonary Embolism Rule Out Criteria) + Negative, trimester adjusted d-dimer level. Adjusted trimester cutoffs for d-dimer in pregnancy are: 1st 750 ng/dL, 2nd 1000 ng/dL, and 3rd 1250 ng/dL. So, figure out what trimester your patient is and if they are PERC - and the d-dimer falls below the cutoff,  you are done. Remember to adjust the pulse to 105 bpm if using the PERC rule for rule out as heart rate goes up in pregnancy.
  • Start with lower extremity US, if DVT +, you are done

**For explanation of PERC rule, see earlier pearl.


 Kline J, Carolinas Medical Center, 2006-2008 published data