Low Risk Meets High Stakes: Unraveling the Mystery of Low D-dimer Pulmonary Embolism (2023)

Type of publication:
Journal article

Kasanga, Sadat; Khashan, Abdallah; Salik, Ahsan; *Aboshehata, Ahmed M; Casillas, Sebastian; Islam, Mohammed

Cureus. 15(12):e51045, 2023 Dec.

Pulmonary embolisms (PEs) are potentially life-threatening emergencies that carry significant morbidity and mortality. Advances in treatment options and the safety of existing procedures have effectively reduced the long-term and short-term effects of the condition. Therefore, it is important to make an early diagnosis so that treatment options can be thoroughly explored. The D-dimer is an important tool in the early diagnosis of PEs. It is especially useful in ruling out the diagnosis in patients with a low to moderate suspicion of the disease. We present a case of a 22-year-old male who presented with exertional dyspnea, congestion, and rhinorrhea for one day and was noted to have persistent hypoxia and tachycardia. The influenza test was positive, and he was started on oseltamivir. Due to persistent hypoxia, a CT pulmonary angiogram was ordered and revealed filling defects in the left lower lobe segmental vessels suggestive of PE, as well as multifocal multilobar bilateral ground-glass opacities. He was initially treated with a heparin drip and subsequently switched to eliquis. After a significant improvement in his hypoxia, he was discharged home for outpatient follow-up, includinga hypercoagulable workup. This case demonstrates that despite the usefulness of the D-dimer as a diagnostic tool for PEs, it cannot solely or fully replace the full gamut of screening tools used to determine the risk of PE. Although rare, false-negative scores do occur; therefore, the tool should always be used in conjunction with other scoring systems, physician gestalt, and within the specific clinical context.

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