Patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who were hospitalized for acutely worsening respiratory symptoms had a prevalence of pulmonary embolism (PE) of 5.9%, according to study results published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The prevalence of pulmonary embolism was evaluated in patients with hospitalized patients with COPD at 7 hospitals in France. The primary study outcome was diagnosis of PE within 48 hours of hospital admission. Secondary outcomes included PE during a 3-month follow-up period of those patients who did not have venous thromboembolism (VTE) and did not receive anticoagulation therapy.

Of the 740 participants with COPD who were hospitalized for acutely worsening respiratory symptoms, the mean age was 68.2 years and 63% were men. In the primary study outcome, PE was diagnosed within 48 hours of admission in 44 patients (5.9%). An additional 10 patients (1.4%) had an isolated deep vein thrombosis. During the 3 month follow-up period, PE occurred in 5 patients who previously did not have VTE and did not receive anticoagulation therapy while hospitalized. The 3-month mortality rate was 6.8% overall; 25.9% among patients with VTE at admission and 5.2% among patients without VTE.

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“The prevalence of [PE] reached 10% when it was suspected, and remained at more than 3% among patients without a clinical suspicion,” the study authors wrote. “Further research is needed to understand the possible role of systematic screening for pulmonary embolism in this patient population.”

Disclosure: Several study authors declared affiliations with the pharmaceutical industry. Please see the original reference for a full list of authors’ disclosures.


Couturaud F, Bertoletti L, Pastre J, et al; for the PEP Investigators. Prevalence of pulmonary embolism among patients with COPD hospitalized with acutely worsening respiratory symptoms. JAMA. 2021;325(1):59-68. doi:10.1001/jama.2020.23567