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Roles of spectral dual-layer CT, D-dimer concentration, and COVID-19 pneumonia in diagnosis of pulmonary embolism.

PURPOSE: To demonstrate advantages of spectral dual-layer computed tomography (CT) in diagnosing pulmonary embolism (PE). To compare D-dimer values in patients with PE and concomitant COVID-19 pneumonia to those in patients without PE and COVID-19 pneumonia. To compare D-dimer values in cases of minor versus extensive PE.

METHODS: A monocentric retrospective study of 1500 CT pulmonary angiographies (CTPAs). Three groups of 500 consecutive examinations: 1) using conventional multidetector CT (CTC), 2) using spectral dual-layer CT (CTS), and 3) of COVID-19 pneumonia patients using spectral dual-layer CT (COV). Only patients with known D-dimer levels were enrolled in the study.

RESULTS: Prevalence of inconclusive PE findings differed significantly between CTS and CTC (0.8 % vs. 5.4 %, p < 0.001). In all groups, D-dimer levels were significantly higher in PE positive patients than in patients without PE (CTC, 8.04 vs. 3.05 mg/L; CTS, 6.92 vs. 2.57 mg/L; COV, 10.26 vs. 2.72 mg/L, p < 0.001). There were also statistically significant differences in D-dimer values between minor and extensive PE in the groups negative for COVID-19 (CTC, 5.16 vs. 8.98 mg/L; CTS 3.52 vs. 9.27 mg/L, p < 0.001). The lowest recorded D-dimer value for proven PE in patients with COVID-19 pneumonia was 1.19 mg/L.

CONCLUSION: CTPAs using spectral dual-layer CT reduce the number of inconclusive PE findings. Plasma D-dimer concentration increases with extent of PE. Cut-off value of D-dimer with 100 % sensitivity for patients with COVID-19 pneumonia could be doubled to 1.0 mg/L. This threshold would have saved 110 (22 %) examinations in our cohort.

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