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The accuracy of MRI in diagnosis of suspected deep vein thrombosis: systematic review and meta-analysis


Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) may be used to diagnose deep vein thrombosis (DVT) in patients for whom ultrasound examination is inappropriate or unfeasible. We undertook a systematic review of the literature and meta-analysis to estimate the diagnostic accuracy of MRI for DVT. We searched databases of medical literature and citation lists of retrieved articles. We selected studies that compared MRI with a reference standard in patients with suspected DVT or suspected pulmonary embolus, or high-risk asymptomatic patients. Data were analysed by random effects meta-analysis. We included 14 articles in the meta-analysis. Most compared MRI with venography in patients with clinically suspected DVT. The pooled estimate of sensitivity was 91.5% (95% CI: 87.5–94.5%) and the pooled estimate of specificity was 94.8% (95% CI: 92.6–96.5%). Sensitivity for proximal DVT was higher than sensitivity for distal DVT (93.9% versus 62.1%). However, pooled estimates should be interpreted with caution as estimates of both sensitivity and specificity were subject to significant heterogeneity (P<0.001). Individual studies reported sensitivity ranging from zero to 100%, while specificity ranged from 43 to 100%. MRI has equivalent sensitivity and specificity to ultrasound for diagnosis of DVT, but has been evaluated in many fewer studies, using a variety of different techniques.

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The authors would like to thank Kathryn Paulucy for her clerical assistance and Angie Ryan for her help with the literature searches. The United Kingdom Health Technology Assessment R&D Programme funded this project (reference number 02/03/01). The views and opinions expressed therein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the UK Department of Health.

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Correspondence to Fiona C. Sampson.



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Sampson, F.C., Goodacre, S.W., Thomas, S.M. et al. The accuracy of MRI in diagnosis of suspected deep vein thrombosis: systematic review and meta-analysis. Eur Radiol 17, 175–181 (2007).

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  • Deep vein thrombosis
  • Systematic review
  • Meta-analysis
  • Magnetic resonance imaging