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Cancer Imaging

Open Access

CTPA for clinically suspected pulmonary emboli in oncology patients

Cancer Imaging201414(Suppl 1):P27

Published: 9 October 2014


Pulmonary embolism (PE) is a known cause of morbidity and mortality in oncology patients. Whilst much of the literature focuses on the detection of incidental PE in this cohort of patients (approximately 4%), little is written about the rate of positive CT Pulmonary Angiograms (CTPA) when PE is clinically suspected. We wanted to assess the rate of positive CTPA specifically amongst oncology patients with suspected PE in our teaching hospital.


We retrospectively analysed all consecutive CTPAs carried out for clinically suspected PE over a 12 month period in all patients under our oncology services.


A total of 230 oncology patients had a CTPA to exclude PE and 40 were positive (17.4%). Of the positive CTPAs, most (31 scans, 77.5%) showed multiple PEs. The commonest cancer patients to undergo CTPA were lung (38), breast (34) and lymphoma (26) patients, and the highest incidence of positive CTPA were in breast (7/34), ovarian (2/9) and pancreatic (2/5) carcinoma. CTPAs carried out in colorectal carcinoma patients had the lowest probability of being positive (1/15).


The published rate of positive CTPA for clinically suspected PE in the general population is 15-20%. Our study shows that despite the widely held view that oncology patients are more prone to pulmonary thromboembolic disease, the incidence of positive CTPA is in fact similar to the general population. Our threshold for imaging oncology patients should therefore be the same as in the general population.

Authors’ Affiliations

Radiology Department, University Hospital Southampton, Southampton, UK


© Brook et al; licensee BioMed Central Ltd. 2014

This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.