Weight-Adjusted Contrast Administration in the Computed Tomography Evaluation of Pulmonary Embolism

Prasanna J. Ratnakanthan, Helen Kavnoudias, Eldho Paul, Warren J. Clements

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Computed tomography pulmonary angiogram (CTPA) is widely considered the gold standard for diagnosis of pulmonary embolism (PE) with previous studies demonstrating high sensitivity and specificity. Despite this, nondiagnostic and indeterminate CTPA rates of 5%–26% remain a concern. As part of a continuing quality assurance program, a new weight-adjusted contrast dose and increased administration rate CTPA protocol was studied with an aim to improve diagnostic accuracy of PE evaluation. Methods: A total of 2,398 CTPA examinations were reviewed to assess pulmonary arterial enhancement and PE yield in this retrospective study. Between 1 August 2014 and 1 August 2015, 1,133 patients received a fixed-volume (60 mL) contrast dose technique at 4 mL/s (protocol A). A new protocol was then implemented as part of a continuing quality assurance program. Between 15 September 2015 and 15 September 2016, 1,265 patients received a weight-adjusted contrast dose (1 mL/kg) and increased administration rate (5 mL/s) CTPA technique (protocol B). Studies were classed into categories based on quality of study; diagnostic: HU > 211, nondiagnostic: HU < 211 and PE yield; positive, negative, and indeterminate. These variables were compared with cross-sectional surface area to assess the relationship between patient habitus, CTPA diagnostic quality, and PE yield. Results: A weight-adjusted contrast dose and increased administration rate CTPA protocol (protocol B) resulted in a significant increase in mean PA enhancement (P <.0001), 55.23% decrease in nondiagnostic studies and 43.04% decrease in indeterminate studies. Protocol B demonstrated increased positive and negative CTPA rates with decreased indeterminate rates from 12.38% to 7.04%. Comparison with cross-sectional area demonstrated significant increase in proportion of diagnostic studies and reduction in nondiagnostic and indeterminate CTPAs using protocol B in obese patients. Conclusions: A weight-adjusted contrast dose and increased administration rate CTPA protocol can significantly increase PA enhancement, especially in obese patients, resulting in greater high-quality and fewer nondiagnostic and indeterminate CTPA examinations. A CTPA protocol with a higher rate of conclusive examinations can provide greater confidence in PE evaluation for reporting radiologists and accurate clinical decision-making pathways for referring physicians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)451-461
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Medical Imaging and Radiation Sciences
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2020


  • CT pulmonary angiography
  • increased contrast administration rate
  • indeterminate
  • pulmonary embolism
  • pulmonary enhancement
  • weight-based contrast dose

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