Objective: The use of advanced techniques of computed tomography (CT) has resulted in increased incidentally detected pulmonary embolism in oncology patients undergoing routine cancer staging CT scans. The aim of this study was to compare the symptomatic and incidental pulmonary emboli cases in oncologic patients.
Methods: The medical data of the patients diagnosed with pulmonary embolism (ICD: I.26) and had an underlying malignancy were evaluated retrospectively from their hospital records between the years of 2009 and 2013. The results of their right ventricle dilatations were evaluated from the thorax CT.
Results: There were 38 women (44.2%) and 48 men (55.8%), totalling 86 patients. Their mean age was 61.7 ± 11.9 years and the median duration of their follow-up was 6 months. Their most common underlying malignancies were gastrointestinal (29.4%), lung (22.4%), genitourinary (21.2%) and breast cancers (10.6%). Their pulmonary thromboembolism was diagnosed incidentally on routine control thorax CT in 39 of the cases (45.3%). When the incidental cases were compared with the symptomatic ones, no statistically significant difference was found with respect to the type of malignancy, history of chemotherapy, the presence of metastasis and evidence of septum flattening on the thorax CT. The presence of bilateral thrombus was found to be increased in the symptomatic cases compared with the incidental ones and the difference was statistically significant (p = 0.026). It was found that the right ventricle/left ventricle ratio was significantly higher in symptomatic cases (p = 0.03) than in the incidental ones.
Conclusion: A considerable number of pulmonary thromboemboli episodes could be asymptomatic in malignant patients. It is suggested that the submassive clinical course and preserved right ventricle functions could be the reason for the asymptomatic events.