Clot or not? An unusual case of false positive CTPA and an a
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The case involves a 69-year-old female with severe, longstanding bronchiectasis secondary to childhood pertussis infection. She presented to the hospital and was thought clinically to have a pulmonary embolus. A CT pulmonary angiogram was performed, which was technically satisfactory. This revealed multiple, bilateral filling defects that were fairly convincing for pulmonary emboli. Further review of the CT scan not only revealed the extent of her bronchiectasis but also a number of enlarged bronchial arteries supplying the diseased lung.

The pulmonary arterial filling defects arose suspiciously close to the bronchial arteries and the possibility of bronchial to pulmonary artery anastomoses was considered. Could the admixture of highly contrast-opacified pulmonary arterial blood with partially opacified systemic arterial blood cause the apparent filling defects? After further consideration, a second electrocardiography-gated CT angiogram was performed—this time in the systemic arterial phase but planned with two regions of interest sited over the main pulmonary artery and the aorta with the aim of triggering the scan with maximum contrast in the bronchial arteries, and as much contrast washout as possible in the pulmonary arteries.

This study revealed a reversal of the CT pulmonary angiogram appearances with contrast now seen in the bronchial arteries and opacifying the sites of the previous filling defects in the pulmonary arteries. Thus, the filling defects were actually false positives caused by an admixture of highly opacified and part-opacified blood via bronchial artery anastomoses. In the context of a false-positive finding of pulmonary embolus on a background of severe bronchiectasis, unnecessary anticoagulation could have increased the risk of complications such as haemoptysis. This case report illustrates the importance of knowledge of potential false-positive findings in CT pulmonary angiography and describes a novel approach based on cardiac CT techniques to prove this.