Acute Pulmonary Embolism in Emergency Department Patients Despite Therapeutic Anticoagulation
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Acute Pulmonary Embolism in Emergency Department Patients Despite Therapeutic Anticoagulation


Introduction: Emergency department (ED) patients with acute pulmonary embolism (PE) despite therapeutic anticoagulation at the time of diagnosis are uncommonly encountered and present a diagnostic and management challenge. Their characterization and outcomes are poorly described. We sought to describe the prevalence and characteristics of therapeutically anticoagulated patients among a population of patients with acute PE in a community setting and to describe treatment changes and 30-day outcomes. 

Methods: From a large retrospective cohort of adults with acute, objectively-confirmed PE across 21 EDs between 01/2013 and 04/2015, we identified patients who arrived on direct oral or injectable anticoagulants, or warfarin with an initial ED international normalized ratio (INR) value ≥2.0. Patients were excluded from the larger cohort if they had received a diagnosis of venous thromboembolism (VTE) in the prior 30 days. We gathered demographic and clinical variables from electronic health records and structured manual chart review. We report discharge anticoagulation regimens and major 30-day adverse outcomes. 

Results: Among 2,996 PE patients, 36 (1.2%) met study criteria. Mean age was 63 years. Eleven patients (31%) had active cancer and 25 (69%) were high risk on the PE Severity Index (Classes III-V), comparable to the larger cohort (p>0.1). Reasons for pre-arrival anticoagulation were VTE treatment or prevention (n=21), and atrial fibrillation or flutter (n=15). All patients arrived on warfarin and one was also on enoxaparin: 32 had a therapeutic INR (2.0-3.0) and four had a supratherapeutic INR (>3.0). Fifteen patients (42%) had at least one subtherapeutic INR (<2.0) in the 14 days preceding their diagnostic visit. Two patients died during hospitalization. Of the 34 ultimately discharged, 22 underwent a change in anticoagulation drug or dosing, 19 of whom received injectables, either to replace or to supplement warfarin. Four patients also received inferior vena cava filters. Thirty-day outcomes included one major hemorrhage and one additional death. No patients experienced recurrent or worsening VTE.

Conclusion: We found a low prevalence of therapeutic anticoagulation at the time of acute PE diagnosis. Most patients underwent a change in therapy, though management varied widely. Subtherapeutic anticoagulation levels in the preceding weeks were common and support the importance of anticoagulation adherence.


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