0
Special Article | Less Is More

The Diagnosis and Treatment of Pulmonary Embolism:  A Metaphor for Medicine in the Evidence-Based Medicine Era

Vinay Prasad, MD; Jason Rho, MD; Adam Cifu, MD
Arch Intern Med. 2012;172(12):955-958. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2012.195.
Text Size: A A A
Published online

Background The history of pulmonary embolism (PE) provides a fascinating portrait of a well-established diagnosis and standard of care treatment moving into the age of evidence-based medicine.

Methods We examined the history of PE and the practice of treating PE with anticoagulation.

Results Pulmonary embolism is a diagnostic category whose definition and treatment have both changed in the past century. Initially, PE was recognizable only when massive, with the signs and symptoms of right heart failure. Anticoagulants were established as the cornerstone of PE management with a single randomized controlled trial of 35 patients in 1960 and based on commonsense pathophysiologic reasoning. Since then, the diagnostic category of PE has been broadened, and the advent of computed tomography pulmonary angiography has yielded nearly a doubling of the incidence of the disease, without a concordant decrease in mortality. Although anticoagulation remains the cornerstone of management, open questions remain: what end points are altered by anticoagulation? What is the number needed to treat?

Conclusions Trials of newer anticoagulants and longer durations of anticoagulation have not yielded real improvements over heparin, inviting doubts regarding its efficacy. Thus, PE is the quintessential diagnosis of medicine not because it represents our greatest success, but because it captures all the complexity of medicine in the evidence-based era. It may serve as a metaphor for many other conditions in medicine, including coronary artery disease. New trials in the field continue to test trivialities, whereas fundamental questions are unanswered.

Sign In to Access Full Content

Don't have Access?

Register and get free email Table of Contents alerts, saved searches, PowerPoint downloads, CME quizzes, and more

Subscribe for full-text access to content from 1998 forward and a host of useful features

Activate your current subscription (AMA members and current subscribers)

Purchase Online Access to this article for 24 hours

Figures

Tables

References

Correspondence

CME
Meets CME requirements for:
Browse CME for all U.S. States
Accreditation Information
The American Medical Association is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education to provide continuing medical education for physicians. The AMA designates this journal-based CME activity for a maximum of 1 AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM per course. Physicians should claim only the credit commensurate with the extent of their participation in the activity. Physicians who complete the CME course and score at least 80% correct on the quiz are eligible for AMA PRA Category 1 CreditTM.
Note: You must get at least of the answers correct to pass this quiz.
You have not filled in all the answers to complete this quiz
The following questions were not answered:
Sorry, you have unsuccessfully completed this CME quiz with a score of
The following questions were not answered correctly:
Commitment to Change (optional):
Indicate what change(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
Your quiz results:
The filled radio buttons indicate your responses. The preferred responses are highlighted
For CME Course: A Proposed Model for Initial Assessment and Management of Acute Heart Failure Syndromes
Indicate what changes(s) you will implement in your practice, if any, based on this CME course.
NOTE:
Citing articles are presented as examples only. In non-demo SCM6 implementation, integration with CrossRef’s "Cited By" API will populate this tab (http://www.crossref.org/citedby.html).
Submit a Comment

Multimedia

Some tools below are only available to our subscribers or users with an online account.

Web of Science® Times Cited: 10

Sign In to Access Full Content

Related Content

Customize your page view by dragging & repositioning the boxes below.

Articles Related By Topic
Related Topics
PubMed Articles
Jobs
JAMAevidence.com

Users' Guides to the Medical Literature
Thromboembolism or Acute Pulmonary Embolism

Users' Guides to the Medical Literature
Table 9.2-3 Refuted Evidence From Observational Studiesa

brightcove.createExperiences();