The utility and cost-effectiveness of D-dimer measurements in the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis

Luciano Crippa, Silvana Viganò D'Angelo, Loredana Tomassini, Barbara Rizzi, Gabriella D'Alessandro, Armando D'Angelo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background and Objective. The potential utility of D-dimer measurements for the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis became evident soon after the development of reliable commercial assays. The purpose of this review is to outline some critical aspects affecting cost-effectiveness of D-dimer measurements in the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis (DVT). Methods. The authors have been working in this field contributing original papers whose data have been used for this study. In addition, the material analyzed in this article includes papers published in the journals covered by the Science Citation index® and Medline®. Results. D-dimer levels are very sensitive to the process of fibrin formation/dissolution occurring with ongoing thrombosis. However, they may not be highly specific for venous thromboembolism as they are influenced by the presence of comorbid conditions potentially elevating plasma D-dimer (cancer, surgery, infectious diseases). In addition, commercially available ELISA assays, although quantitative and reproducible, cannot be used under emergency conditions because they are time-consuming and suited for batch-processing of plasma samples. Recently, new assays have been introduced which permit fast and quantitative D-dimer estimations in individual patients. We have evaluated the utility of two new rapid assays (LPIA D-dimer, Mitsubishi, and VIDAS D-DIMER, bioMerieux) in combination with compression real-time-B-mode ultrasonography for the detection of deep vein thrombosis in asymptomatic patients following elective hip replacement and in patients with clinically suspected deep vein thrombosis. In both settings, we identified cut-off values with optimal sensitivity which allow exclusion of deep vein thrombosis in a considerable percentage of patients, with substantial sparing of economic resources. In fact, based on a cost-effectiveness analysis, a diagnostic algorithm combining D-dimers measurement and compression ultrasonography would result in cost-savings ranging from 5% to 55% in patients with high or low clinical pre-test probability respectively. However, the specificity of D-dimer measurements for deep vein thrombosis was much higher in symptomatic than in asymptomatic patients. Choice of the cut-off value proved to be dependent on the method as well as on the patient populations studied. Conclusions. The cost-effectiveness of D-dimers measurement in the diagnosis of asymptomatic DVT remains questionable. Conversely, our data strongly support the utility of D-dimers determinations in the diagnosis of symptomatic DVT. In terms of sparing economic resources, the introduction in the clinical laboratory of the rapid quantitative assays would be highly convenient, because they avoid a source of bias in the interpretation of D-dimers results, are easy to perform and do not require dedicated personnel or instrumentation. Prospective management studies validating the utility of D-dimer measurement in the diagnosis of deep vein thrombosis are urgently needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)446-451
Number of pages6
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 1997


  • D-dimer
  • Deep vein thrombosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology


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