Pleuritic chest pain and hypoxia – a diagnostic dilemma Sanjiv Mahadeva, Pulak Sahay, Richard V Lewis Pulmonary thromboembolism (PE) is notoriously difficult to diagnose since it commonly presents in a non-specific manner. Only 15–30% of the patients identified at post-mortem as having a massive PE have been diagnosed correctly prior to death.1,2 However, large studies have shown that certain clinical symptoms and features such as dyspnoea, tachypnoea, pleuritic chest pain with a normal chest radiograph and a low PaO2 are present in more than 90% of patients with PE.2 Clinicians in a district hospital setting have to rely on these features, especially when facilities for detailed imaging such as computerised tomography (CT) or pulmonary angiography are not available. Occasionally, certain other diseases can mimic the clinical picture of PE and lead to delay in instituting appropriate treatment. We present two patients with symptoms and clinical investigations which were highly suggestive of acute PE but who turned out to have very different diagnoses in the end.
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