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Pulmonary Embolism Common in Acute COPD Patients

One in four patients hospitalized with acute chronic obstructive pulmonary disease may also have pulmonary embolism

FRIDAY, Mar. 6 (HealthDay News) -- Pulmonary embolism may occur in one-quarter of patients hospitalized with an acute exacerbation of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), according to research published in the March issue of Chest.

Jacques Rizkallah, M.D., of the University of British Columbia in Canada, and colleagues performed a systematic literature review and identified 2,407 published cross-sectional or prospective studies that reported the prevalence of pulmonary embolism in patients with an acute COPD exacerbation.

A total of five studies containing 550 patients met the criteria for inclusion in this review. Overall, pulmonary embolism occurred in approximately one-fifth of patients (19.9 percent), the investigators found. When the sample was limited to hospitalized patients, the prevalence of pulmonary embolism increased to nearly one-quarter (24.7 percent), the researchers report. In contrast, the prevalence among patients evaluated in the emergency room was much lower (3.3 percent), although this was based on only one published study, the report indicates.

Based on these findings, the authors conclude that "clinicians should consider pulmonary embolism in the diagnostic workup of COPD exacerbations, especially in patients where the underlying etiology is not apparent and in whom there is a history of malignancy or other additional risk factors that may increase the clinical likelihood of pulmonary embolism."

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