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Alveolar-arterial oxygen gradient in acute pulmonary embolism in pregnancy

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      Objective: Our goal was to determine the prevalence of normal alveolar-arterial gradients in pregnant patients with documented pulmonary embolism.
      Study Design: A retrospective chart review was performed on all pregnant women with pulmonary embolism at two large obstetric centers between 1990 and 1995. Alveolar-arterial gradients were calculated from room air arterial blood gas values and compared with values from patients who had been established as normal.
      Results: Ten of 17 patients with pulmonary embolism identified had alveolar-arterial gradients that were normal.
      Conclusions: In our study 58% of pregnant women with documented pulmonary embolism had a normal alveolar-arterial gradient. This markedly differs from the published data in nonpregnant patients, in which the incidence of normal alveolar-arterial gradients in pulmonary embolism has ranged from 1.9% to 20%. This suggests that the alveolar-arterial gradient should not be used to determine the likelihood of pulmonary embolism in pregnant women because this could lead to the withholding of appropriate treatment for this life-threatening condition.

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