Hospital mortality due to pulmonary embolism and an evaluation of the usefulness of preventative interventions

Dimitrios Scarvelis, Josdalyne Anderson, Laurie Davis, Melissa Forgie, James Lee, Linn Petersson, Tim Ramsay, Philip S. Wells

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Background: Mortality rates due to pulmonary embolism (PE) are difficult to estimate often due to the presence of comorbid disease. Objectives: To determine the accuracy of hospital records in identifying PE cases, PE-related mortality, and the number of PE-related deaths which are potentially preventable. Methods: Retrospective chart review of PE cases hospitalized at The Ottawa Hospital over an 8 year period. Cases were reviewed to determine accuracy of coding, as well as the certainty with which PE was the cause of death. In PE-related deaths, a determination was made as to whether any interventions may have been life-saving. Results: 498 cases of 612 (81%) cases coded as PE were correctly coded. 111 (22%) died during hospitalization, 63% of deaths were attributed to PE. The presence of a cardiorespiratory comorbidity or cancer was independently associated with an increased rate of death due to PE. 54% of PE-related deaths were determined to be potentially preventable, most commonly by appropriate DVT prophylaxis. A significantly higher number of cancer patients as compared to non-cancer patients may have potentially had their death due to PE prevented by an inferior vena cava filter (IVCF). Systemic thrombolysis was deemed to be potentially life-saving in 1/38 PE-related deaths. Conclusion: Hospital mortality due to clinically recognized PE can be determined by chart review of PE cases identified using the ICD coding system. Death due to PE is often potentially preventable; in the subgroup with cancer and DVT/PE, an IVCF may be a potentially useful intervention to prevent death due to PE. Prospective studies are needed to confirm these results.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)166-170
Number of pages5
JournalThrombosis Research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • ICD classifications
  • Mortality
  • Prevention
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Retrospective


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