The advantages of lung scanning in suspected pulmonary embolism are its diagnostic sensitivity, simplicity and safety. The ability to delineate regional pulmonary ischaemia, to quantitate its extent and to follow its response to therapy provides valuable clinical data available by no other simple means. The negative scan effectively excludes pulmonary embolism but, although certain of its features favour the diagnosis of embolism, the positive scan inherently lacks specificity and requires angiographic confirmation when embolectomy, caval plication or infusion of a thrombolytic agent are contemplated. The addition of simple ventilation imaging techniques with radioxenon overcomes this limitation by providing accurate analog estimation or digital quantitation of regional ventilation: perfusion (V/Q) ratios fundamental to understanding the pathophysiologic consequences of embolism and other diseases of the lung.
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