Exclusion and diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis in outpatients by sequential noninvasive tools

J J Michiels, H Kasbergen, R Oudega, F Van Der Graaf, M De Maeseneer, M Van Der Planken, W Schroyens
International Angiology: a Journal of the International Union of Angiology 2002, 21 (1): 9-19
Phlebography is the reference gold standard for the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis (DVT), but due to its invasive nature and associated side effects it has been replaced by compression ultrasonography (CUS). Patients suspected of DVT are subjected to leg vein CUS that actually confirms DVT in only 16 to 28% of outpatients in large prospective management studies. CUS has a high positive predictive value of more than 98% for proximal DVT but usually misses calf vein thrombosis. Its negative predictive value for proximal DVT is about 97-98%, on the basis of which repeated scanning at day 7 after a negative first CUS (serial CUS) in outpatients with a first suspicion of DVT is advocated. Serial ultrasonography is costly and can be simplified and improved by the addition of clinical score and D-dimer testing. The safe exclusion of DVT by a rapid sensitive D-dimer test in combination with clinical score and/or CUS requires a negative predictive value of >99%. The negative predictive value for DVT is determined by the sensitivity of the rapid ELISA D-dimer test and the prevalence of DVT in subgroups of outpatients suspected of the condition. The prevalence of DVT in outpatients with a low, moderate and high clinical score varies widely from 3-10%, 15-30% and >70%, respectively. The combination of a low clinical score (prevalence DVT 3-5%) and a negative rapid ELISA D-dimer alone test will have a very high negative predictive value of >99.9% to exclude DVT without the need of CUS testing. The combination of a negative CUS and a negative rapid ELISA D-dimer test safely excludes DVT in patients with suspected DVT irrespective of the clinical score. The combination of a negative CUS, a low clinical score and a positive ELISA D-dimer but <1000 ng/ml excludes DVT with a negative predictive value of >99% without the need to repeat CUS. Patients with a negative CUS, scan but a positive ELISA D-dimer, and a moderate or high clinical score are still at risk with a probability of DVT of 3-5% and 20-30%, respectively and are thus candidates for repeated ultrasound scanning. The rapid ELISA D-dimer first followed by risk-based no, single or repeated CUS will be the most cost-effective strategy.

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