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Outpatient treatment of pulmonary embolism

Three Part Question

Is it [safe] to treat a patient with [pulmonary embolic disease] as an [outpatient]?

Clinical Scenario

A 40 year old woman presents to the emergency department with pleuritic chest pain. She comments that she has had 'cramp' in her left leg since discharge from the surgical ward, post hysterectomy. Her ventilation-perfusion scan shows a high probability of pulmonary embolism. You have scored her as a high clinical probability of PE and therefore diagnose pulmonary embolic disease. She is comfortable with normal oxygen saturations, and keen to return home to her family. You wonder whether treating her as a outpatient would be an option.

Search Strategy

Medline 1966-04/03 using the OVID interface.
[(pulmonary embol$.mp OR exp Pulmonary Embolism OR OR exp Thromboembolism OR pulmonary infarct$.mp) AND ( OR exp Therapeutics OR OR exp Heparin, Low-Molecular-Weight OR low molecular OR exp Anticoagulants) AND ( OR exp Outpatients OR OR exp Outpatient clinics, hospital)] LIMIT to human AND English.

Search Outcome

282 papers were found, of which 3 were relevant. One further paper (4) found by a hand-search of the literature.

Relevant Paper(s)

Author, date and country Patient group Study type (level of evidence) Outcomes Key results Study Weaknesses
Kovacs MJ et al,
81 patients treated at home for pulmonary embolism. Further 27 managed at home after average 2.5 days in hospitalProspective cohortRecurrent thromboembolic event in 3 month follow-up5.6%Comparatively small numbers
Major haemorrhage1.9%
Death3.7% - none due to PE or bleed
Wells PS et al,
184 patients with either DVT or PE (34 had PE) deemed at low risk of complications randomised to self administration dalteparin or homecare nurse administration. All treated at homeProspective cohortRecurrent thromboembolic event in 3 month follow-up3.6%Small number of patients with PE
Major haemorrhage2.0%
Minor haemorrhage5.1%
Death7.2% - 11 died of metastatic carcinoma, 1 or sepsis and 1 MI
Labas P et al,
28 patients diagnosed with concurrent PE and DVT treated at homeProspective cohortDeathNoneNo details given regarding diagnostic criteria for PE
Beer JH
43 symptomatic PE patients at low predicted risk, treated as outpatientsProspective cohortDeath in following 3 months0/43Small cohort
Bleeding in following 3 months0/43
Recurrent PE1/43


There are no large studies validating this approach to the treatment of pulmonary embolism.

Clinical Bottom Line

It may be safe to treat a low risk group of patients with pulmonary embolic disease at home.


  1. Kovacs MJ, Anderson D, Morrow B, et al. Outpatient treatment of pulmonary embolism with dalteparin. Throm Haemost 2000;83(2):209-11.
  2. Wells PS, Kovacs MJ, Bormanis J, et al. Expanding eligibility for outpatient treatment of deep venous thrombosis and pulmonary embolism with low-molecular-weight heparin: a comparison of patient self-injection with homecare injection. Arch Intern Med 1998;158(16):1809-12.
  3. Labas P, Ohradka B, Cambal M. Could deep vein thrombosis be safely treated at home. Bratislavske Lekarske Listy 2001;102(10):458-61.
  4. Beer JH, Burger M, Gretener S, et al. Outpatient treatment of pulmonary embolism is feasible and safe in a substantial proportion of patients. Journal of Thrombosis and Haemostasis 2002;1:186-202.