Anticoagulant treatment for subsegmental pulmonary embolism

Background

Acute pulmonary embolism (PE) is a common cause of death, accounting for 50,000 to 200,000 deaths annually. It is the third most common cause of mortality among the cardiovascular diseases, after coronary artery disease and stroke. The advent of multi-detector computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) has allowed better assessment of PE regarding visualisation of the peripheral pulmonary arteries, increasing its rate of diagnosis. More cases of peripheral PEs, such as isolated subsegmental PE (SSPE) and incidental PE, have thereby been identified. These two conditions are usually found in patients with few or no classic symptoms such as coughing (including coughing up blood), chest or upper back pain, acute shortness of breath, or general or specific failure of the circulation that is either cardiac or peripheral in nature. However, in patients with an impaired cardiac and pulmonary condition the classic PE symptoms can be found with isolated SSPEs. Incidental SSPE is found casually in asymptomatic patients, usually by diagnostic imaging performed for other reasons (for example routine computed tomography (CT) for cancer staging in oncologic patients). Patients with isolated SSPE or incidental PE may have a more benign clinical presentation compared to those with proximal PEs. However, the clinical significance and prognosis in these patients has to be studied to evaluate whether anticoagulation therapy is required.

Review question

What is the effectiveness and safety of anticoagulation therapy versus control in patients with subsegmental pulmonary embolism (SSPE) or incidental SSPE?

Study characteristics

We did not identify any studies that met the inclusion criteria.

Key results

There is no evidence from randomised controlled trials (current to 26 November 2019) on the effectiveness and safety of anticoagulation therapy versus control in patients with isolated subsegmental pulmonary embolism (SSPE) or incidental SSPE. We cannot draw any conclusions. Well-conducted research is required before informed practice decisions can be made.

Quality of evidence

It is not possible to review methodological quality in the absence of studies eligible for inclusion in the review.

Authors' conclusions: 

There is no evidence from randomised controlled trials to assess the effectiveness and safety of anticoagulation therapy versus control in patients with isolated subsegmental pulmonary embolism (SSPE) or incidental SSPE. Well-conducted research is required before informed practice decisions can be made.

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Background: 

Acute pulmonary embolism (PE) is a common cause of death, accounting for 50,000 to 200,000 deaths annually. It is the third most common cause of mortality among the cardiovascular diseases, after coronary artery disease and stroke. The advent of multi-detector computed tomographic pulmonary angiography (CTPA) has allowed better assessment of PE regarding visualisation of the peripheral pulmonary arteries, increasing its rate of diagnosis. More cases of peripheral PEs, such as isolated subsegmental PE (SSPE) and incidental PE, have thereby been identified. These two conditions are usually found in patients with few or none of the classic PE symptoms such as haemoptysis or pleuritic pain, acute dyspnoea or circulatory collapse. However, in patients with reduced cardiopulmonary reserve, classic PE symptoms can be found with isolated SSPEs. Incidental SSPE is found casually in asymptomatic patients, usually by diagnostic imaging performed for other reasons (for example routine CT for cancer staging in oncology patients). Traditionally, all PEs are anticoagulated in a similar manner independent of their location, or number and size of the thrombi. It has been suggested that many patients with SSPE may be treated without benefit, increasing adverse events by a possible unnecessary use of anticoagulants. Patients with isolated SSPE, or incidental PE, may have a more benign clinical presentation compared to those with proximal PEs. However, the clinical significance in patients, and their prognosis, needs to be studied to evaluate whether anticoagulation therapy is required. This is the second update of the Cochrane systematic review published in 2014.

Objectives: 

To assess the effectiveness and safety of anticoagulation therapy versus control in patients with isolated subsegmental pulmonary embolism (SSPE) or incidental SSPE.

Search strategy: 

The Cochrane Vascular Information Specialist searched the Cochrane Vascular Specialised Register, CENTRAL, MEDLINE, Embase, CINAHL and AMED databases and World Health Organization International Clinical Trials Registry Platform and ClinicalTrials.gov trials registers to 26 November 2019. We also undertook reference checking to identify additional studies.

Selection criteria: 

We included randomised controlled trials of anticoagulation therapy versus control in patients with SSPE or incidental SSPE.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two review authors inspected all citations identified to ensure reliable assessment. If relevant studies were identified, we planned for two review authors to independently extract data and to assess the methodological quality of identified trials using the criteria recommended in the Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions.

Main results: 

We did not identify any studies that met the inclusion criteria.

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