Published: 13 December 2021

Authors: John Austin McCandlish, BS Chinara Feizullayeva, BA Alex C. Spyropoulos, MD Paul P. Cronin, MD Jason J. Naidich, MD Benjamin Brenner, MD Thomas McGinn, MD, MPH Pina C. Sanelli, MD, MPH Stuart L. Cohen, MD, MPH

Source: This abstract has been sourced from NZ Respiratory Research Review Issue 202


    Pulmonary embolism (PE) remains a leading cause of maternal mortality, yet diagnosis remains challenging. International diagnostic guidelines vary significantly in their recommendations, making it difficult to determine an optimal policy for evaluation.

    Research Question

    Which societal-level diagnostic guidelines for evaluation of suspected PE in pregnancy are an optimal policy in terms of its cost-effectiveness?

    Study Design and Methods

    We constructed a complex Markov decision model to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of each identified societal guidelines for diagnosis of PE in pregnancy. Our model accounted for risk stratification, empiric treatment, diagnostic testing strategies, as well as short- and long-term effects from PE, treatment with low-molecular-weight heparin, and radiation exposure from advanced imaging. We considered clinical and cost outcomes of each guideline from a US health care system perspective with a lifetime horizon. Clinical effectiveness and costs were measured in time-discounted quality-adjusted life years (QALYs) and US dollars, respectively. Strategies were compared using the incremental cost-effectiveness ratio (ICER) with a willingness-to-pay threshold of $100,000/QALY. One-way, multiway, and probabilistic sensitivity analyses were performed.


    We identified six international societal-level guidelines. Base-case analysis showed the guideline proposed by the American Thoracic Society and Society of Thoracic Radiology (ATS-STR) yielded the highest health benefits (22.90 QALYs) and was cost-effective, with an ICER of $7,808 over the guidelines proposed by the Australian Society of Thrombosis and Haemostasis and the Society of Obstetric Medicine of Australia and New Zealand (ASTH-SOMANZ). All remaining guidelines were dominated. The ATS-STR guideline-recommended strategy yielded an expected additional 2.7 QALYs/100 patients evaluated over the ASTH-SOMANZ. Conclusions were robust to sensitivity analyses, with the ATS-STR guidelines optimal in 86% of probabilistic sensitivity analysis scenarios.


    The ATS-STR guidelines for diagnosis of suspected PE in pregnancy are cost-effective and generate better expected health outcomes than guidelines proposed by other medical societies.

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