UMEM Educational Pearls

Category: Vascular

Title: D-Dimer and Aortic Dissection

Keywords: D-Dimer, Aortic Dissection (PubMed Search)

Posted: 1/25/2010 by Rob Rogers, MD (Updated: 12/7/2019)
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Can you use a serum d-dimer to rule out aortic dissection?

The answer to the question, in 2010, is no.  

There has been a flurry of recent literature about the use of serum d-dimer to rule out aortic dissection. Some studies have shown a sensitivity of nearly 100%, but other studies have shown sensitivities of only 60-70%....pretty abysmal sensitivities. And despite some of the authorities on the subject touting how good the test is, there is not firm literature to support it. Better yet, there are some active medical malpractice cases I am aware of in which the diagnosis of aortic dissection was missed based on a "negative d-dimer."

My suggestion, and the vascular pearl for the day, is to avoid using d-dimer as a aortic dissection rule out strategy until good evidence (if it ever becomes available) exists. I know that people are using this test to rule out the disease, just realize that EVERY time I have ever given a talk on acute aortic disasters, 2-3 people from the audience always share that they had a case of a "d-dimer negative dissection." 

Be careful....