Predictors of Overtesting in Pulmonary Embolism Diagnosis

Safiya Richardson, Eugene Lucas, Stuart L. Cohen, Meng Zhang, Guang Qiu, Sundas Khan, Thomas McGinn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Background: The benefits of computed tomography pulmonary angiography (CTPA) for pulmonary embolism (PE) diagnosis must be weighed against its risks, radiation-induced malignancy, and contrast-induced nephropathy. Appropriate use of CTPA can be assessed by monitoring yield, the percentage of tests positive for PE. We identify factors that are associated low CTPA yield, which may predict overtesting. Methods: This was a retrospective cohort study of six emergency departments between June 2014 and February 2017. The electronic health record was queried for CTPAs ordered for adult patients in the emergency department. We assessed the following patient factors: age, gender, body mass index, number of comorbidities, race, and ethnicity, provider factors: type (resident, fellow, attending, physician assistant) and environment factors: test time of day, season of visit, and crowdedness of the department. Results: A total of 14,782 CTPAs were reviewed, of which 1366 were found to be positive for PE, resulting in an overall CTPA yield of 9.24%. Provider type was not associated with a difference in yield. Testing was less likely to be positive in younger patients, females, those with lower body mass indexes and those identifying as Asian or Hispanic. Testing was also less likely to be positive when ordered during the overnight shift and during the winter and spring seasons. Conclusion: Our study identified several patient and environmental factors associated with low CTPA yield suggesting potential targets for overtesting. Targeting education and clinical decision support to assist providers in these circumstances may meaningfully improve yields.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)404-408
Number of pages5
JournalAcademic Radiology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Computed tomography pulmonary angiography
  • Electronic health record
  • Health informatics
  • Pulmonary embolism
  • Quality improvement


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