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Utah Researchers Find Method to More Accurately Diagnose Blood Clots in the Lungs

Computed Tomography Pulmonary Angiography (CTPA)

Researchers at Intermountain Medical Center have found a way to more accurately identify a patient’s risk for often-deadly blood clots in the lungs. The research was recently published in the medical journal CHEST.

Say a patient shows up at the ER with pain in his chest, shortness of breath, coughing and feeling light-headed. It could very well be a blood clot in the lungs known as pulmonary embolism, or it could be something else entirely. Dr. Scott Woller, co-director of the Thrombosis program at Intermountain Medical Center, says sometimes invasive tests like CT scans turn out to be unnecessary.

“Our question was, is there a way we can safely rule out blood clots in the lungs in more patients without putting them through a CT scan?,” Woller  says.

Doctors often use a blood test to look for proteins found in the blood when a clot is present. If the protein levels are high enough, they order a CT-scan for the patient. Woller could see that they were getting more false positive results in older patients. That’s because those protein levels naturally increase with age.

The new model proposed by Woller’s team uses a higher threshold for patients over 50 to trigger a CT-scan. The researchers found they could cut out 20 percent of those scans, avoiding an invasive and expensive test.

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