D-dimer prognostic role in mortality

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Rim Halaby, M.D. [2]


Elevated levels of D-dimer signify activation of the hemostastic and fibrinolytic pathways. D-Dimer has been widely evaluated in its association with adverse outcomes among patients with acute venous thromboembolism (VTE).[1] Elevated D-dimer levels is an independent correlate of increased mortality.[2]

D-Dimer in Patients Not Known to Have Either Malignancy or Cardiovascular Disease

Among 17,359 healthy subjects aged more than 35 years who were not known to have either cancer or cardiovascular diseases in the MOLI-SANI cohort and who were followed for an average of 4.2 years, elevated D-dimer was independently associated with increased risk of overall mortality. The incidence of death by quartile of D-dimer were 1.1%, 1.4%, 1.1% and 2.8% for the first, second, third and fourth quartiles respectively. A D-dimer level within the upper quartile (>221 ng/mL) was associated with a higher risk of mortality; in fact, the hazard ratio for death in patients having a D-dimer level within the upper quartile were 2.86%, 1.54% and 1.46% before adjustment for any factors, after adjustment for age and gender and after adjustment for age, gender, smoking, BMI, alcohol intake, hypertension, diabetes or dyslipidemia respectively. Following the stratification of each quartile into tertiles, the hazard ratios for increasing death for the upper three tertiles were 1.06%, 1.45% and 1.97% (p<0.0001) after adjustment for age, gender, smoking, BMI, alcohol intake, hypertension, diabetes and dyslipidemia and 1.01%, 1.38% and 1.86% (p<0.0002) after further adjustment for CRP and WBC.[3]

D-Dimer in Patients Presenting to the Emergency Room

  • Among 366 patients presenting to the emergency department (ED), mortality was higher among patients with a D-dimer > 5500 mg/L (9%) versus that among patients with a D-dimer <1,500 mg/ml (1.1%). The sensitivity and specificity of D-dimer in predicting mortality were 95% and 26% respectively, while the PPV and NPV were 7 % and 99% respectively.[4]
  • Elevated level of D-dimer is an independent predictor of all-cause mortality among patients presenting to the ED following a cardiac arrest outside the hospital (OR 5.7, 95% CI 1.22 to 26.69). Among 182 individuals with out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, 49% were deceased and were found to have a mean level of D-dimer of 9113.6 μg/L which was significantly higher than that of the cardiac arrest survivors who had a mean level of D-dimer of 4,597.5 μg/L.[5]

D-Dimer in Patients with Pulmonary Embolism and Venous Thromboembolism


  • Elevated D-dimer level beyond a prognostic cut-off point is associated with increased risk of short term (within a month) and 3 months adverse events and mortality in the overall population and in hemodynamically stable patients with acute PE.[6]
    • In a meta-analysis of 2,885 pulmonary embolism (PE) patients, elevated D-dimer was associated with short-term mortality defined as death within 30 days after PE both among all patients (OR: 2.76; 95% CI:1.83–4.14; I2 = 0%) as well as among those with hemodynamic stability (OR: 4.28; 95% CI:1.88–9.71; I2 = 0%).[7][8][9][10][11] There was no significant between-study heterogeneity (I2=0%).[6]
    • In a meta-analysis of 4 studies enrolling 1254 patients, D-dimer was associated with 3-month mortality (OR: 4.29; 95% IC: 1.70–10.79; I2 = 0%); however, the results were less consistent across studies.[4][12][13][11] Not all the studies showed an association between elevated D-dimer level and increased mortality.[6]
  • According to the previous metanalyses, the potential prognostic role of D-dimer for risk of mortality following PE has been studied mainly in hemodynamically stable patients and it may have a potential role for risk stratification and tailoring the treatment of these patients. However, D-dimer alone might not be specific to stratify patients as it may vary according to different factors such as age. Hence, D-dimer might be a better predictor of mortality if it is associated with other factors within an integrated score. In addition, it is worth mentioning that the prognostic cut-off values for D-dimer were different from usual daignostic cut-off points and were also different among the studies. These D-dimer cut-off values are hypothesis generating as they were obtained in post-hoc studies.[6]

Shown below is a table summarizing the results of all the studies included in the metaanalysis.[6]

Article's Authors Follow up Period PE Related Mortality n(%) Overall Mortality n(%) D-Dimer Cut-Off Value Association Between D-Dimer level and Mortality
Agterof et al.[7] 10 days
3 months
23 51 (11.6%) Immunoturbidimetric Tinaquant latex test
3000 mcg/ml
Association with mortality at 10 days
Singanayagam et al.[8] 1 month NA 5.1% VIDAS
4000 mcg/l
Association with mortality
Aujesky et al.[4] 3 months 7 (1.9%) 19 (5.2%) VIDAS
NO association with mortality at 3 months
Ghanima et al.[12] 3 months NA 5 (5%) Immunoturbidimetric STA LIA
500 ng/ml
NO association with mortality
Grau et al.[13] 3 months 18 (3%) 62 (10.5%) Latex agglutination turibemtric immunoassay
5000 ng/ml
Correlation with mortality
Klok et al.[9] 15 days
3 months
At 15 days: 5 (1.9%) At 3 months: 55 (8.2%) VIDAS and Immunoturbidimetric Tinaquant latex test
3,000 ng/ml
Independent association with mortality
Lobo et al.[10] 15 days 39 (2.3%) 72 (4.2%) Latex agglutination Turbidimetric immunoassay
4200 ng/ml
Association with PE related mortality
Bova et al.[11] In hospital
3 months
In hospital: 1(0.9%)
At 3 months: NA
In hospital: 4 (2%)
At 3 months: 18 (9%)
VIDAS and Immunoturbidimetric
3000 ng/ml
NO association with in-hospital mortality
Association with mortality at 3 month

Individual Studies of The Metaanalysis

  • In a study involving 674 patients with PE followed up for 3 months, mortality was reported to be 8.2%, 20 % of which was due to recurrent PE while 80% of mortality resulted from non PE related comorbidities such as malignancy, bleeding, cardiac, infectious, pulmonary and neurological causes. Out of the 674 subjects, 262 patients with less likely clinical probability of PE had their D-dimer measured. High D-dimer level is an independent predictor of overall mortality at 3 months among patients with PE after adjustment for COPD, active malignancy, age more than 65 years, inpatient status, central embolus and congestive heart failure (OR 7·29, 95% CI: 1·4–37). This study suggested that the best cut-off level of D-dimer to predict mortality is more than 3000 ng/mL for the VIDAS and Tinaquant assay.[9] No information was provided regarding the percentage of death in patients having D-dimer levels less than the cut-off value vs those with D-dimer levels more than the cut-off value. In addition, high D-dimer level is an independent predictor of overall mortality; however, the association between D-dimer and cause of death (PE related or non PE related) was not evaluated in this study.
  • Elevated D-dimer levels were associated with a higher pulmonary artery obstruction index (PAOI), an increased right ventricular/left ventricular (RV/LV) ratio, and a higher rate of thrombolysis in patients with pulmonary embolism, all of which can be of prognostic value for patients with PE. The study is a cohort of 99 patients with either first episode of PE or recurrent PE confirmed by CT. 96 out of the 99 patients received treatment for PE, such that 87% of patients were treated with LMWH and UFH while the remaining 13% were treated with systemic thrombolytics. Five patients died and one of those five did not receive treatment. D-dimer level was not found to be correlated with mortality; however, it should be taken into consideration that the population size is small.[12]
  • Data results from RIETE registry, a multicenter international observational registry of 10293 subjects, also supports the association between high levels of D-dimer and fatality from pulmonary embolism (OR=1.8, CI=95%) as well as higher risk of major bleeding. 1701 subjects from the RIETE registry had their blood withdrawn for D-dimer testing prior to the initiation of treatment for PE. The subjects were 765 males and 942 females for whom the diagnosis of PE was confirmed by either pulmonary angiography, lung scintigraphy or helical CT scan. The mortality after a 15 days follow up period was 4.2%; 50% of which died from the initial PE, 4.2% from recurrent PE and 1.4% from bleeding. D-dimer levels ≥ 4200 µg/L (upper quartile) were associated with 7% overall mortality within the first 15 days post-PE vs. only 2.7% mortality in patients when D-dimer levels were < 1050 µg/L (lower quartile). The detailed results are as follows:
    • Patients with elevated D-dimer levels were at more risk of overall death (OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1–3.2) than those with D-dimer levels below the described cut-off values after adjustment for gender], creatinine level, immobility, cancer, systolic blood pressure, heart rate and atrial fibrillation.
    • Patients with elevated D-dimer levels were at more risk of fatal PE (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.0–3.8) than those with D-dimer levels below the described cut-off values after adjustment for gender, immobility and systolic blood pressure.
    • Patients with elevated D-dimer levels were at more risk of major bleeding (OR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.5–7.0) than those with D-dimer levels below the described cut-off values after adjustment for gender, creatinine level and thrombolytic therapy.
    • The sensitivity and specificity of D-dimer for predicting overall death were 42% (95% CI,30–56) and 76% (95% CI, 74–78) respectively; while the PPV and NPV were 7% (95% CI, 5–9) and 97%(95% CI, 96–98).
    • The sensitivity and specificity of D-dimer for predicting fatal PE were 44% (95% CI, 28–59) and 75% (95% CI, 73–78) respectively; while the PPV and NPV were4% (95% CI, 2–6) and 98% (95% CI, 98–99) respectively.[10]

Shown below is a table summarizing the results of this study.

Outcome at 15 Days 1st Quartile 2nd Quartile 3d Quartile 4th Quartile
Overall death 2.7% 3.4% 3.7% 7%
Fatal initial PE 1% 1.8% 1.6% 4%
Recurrent PE 0.7% 0 0.9% 0.9%
Fatal recurrent PE 0.2% 0 0.5% 0
Major bleeding 1% 0.5% 1.9% 3.5%
Fatal bleeding 0.5% 0 0.2% 0.7%

  • According to Agterof and colleagues, D-dimer concentration ≥ 3000 µg/ml and pulse rate ≥ 100 bpm were both associated with serious adverse events in the first 10 days among patients with pulmonary embolism. Their findings suggest that it is not recommended to treat patients with PE who have high D-dimer levels or pulse rates as outpatients.[7]
  • In another retrospective study involving 411 patients, elevated D-dimer levels of median = 2947 µg/L was associated with 30-day mortality in normotensive patients vs. patients with D-dimer median value = 1464 µg/L (p=0.02). Nonetheless, neither the importance of D-dimer levels nor that of troponin, which was also studied, nor their combination could outweigh the PE severity index (PESI) score in determining mortality (p<0.0001); but addition of troponin to PESI score was helpful in predicting adequate PESI score for risk stratification.[8]

Optimal Cutpoint D-Dimer Cutpoint for Identifying Increased Risk of Mortality

  • Among 292 hemodynamically stable patients with PE, a D-dimer < 5000 was associated with no in-hospital mortality from PE (0 of 222) while a D-dimer > 5000 ng/mL was associated with a in-hospital mortality from PE of 2.9% (2 of 70)(p = 0.06).[14]
  • Among patients followed for a longer period of time (3 months), there was a 1.1% mortality in patients with median D-dimer levels < 1500 µg/L vs. 9.1% mortality in patients median D-dimer levels > 5500 µg/L (p=0.049).[4]
  • These association between elevated D-Dimer and mortality extends beyond 3 months in the RIETE registry in which a D-dimer ≥ 5000 µg/L was associated with a 2.9 fold increased risk of all cause mortality.[13]

D-Dimer in Patients with Malignancy

  • Among 300 patients with malignancy, increased D-dimer was as strong or stronger than other biomarkers in its association with higher mortality.[15]
  • Higher levels of D-dimer have a predictive value for higher risk of mortality among patients with lung cancer independently of the tumor stage or the histological grade (HR = 5.1; 95% CI, 1.015-1.19, P = 0.013).[16]

D-Dimer in Patients with Congestive Heart Failure

Among 214 patients with class II to IV congestive heart failure followed for 8.5 months, increased D-dimer was independently associated with increased mortality after adjustment for other heart failure prognostic factors such as age, gender, class of heart failure and renal failure. [17] The correlation between elevated D-dimer more than 1435 ng/ml and mortality in heart failure was also reported in a different study conducted on 174 patients (HR = 3.250, 95% CI 1.647-6.414, P = 0.001).[18]

D-Dimer in Patients with Coronary Artery Disease

  • Among 1057 subjects with known CAD, elevated D-dimer was an independently associated with cardiovascular mortality at 6.6 years of follow-up.[19]
  • Among 6,391 subjects in the Multiethnic Study of Atherosclerosis cohort, elevated D-dimer was found to be associated with cancer mortality and was independently associated with all cause mortality.[20]

D-Dimer in Acute Aortic Dissection

  • High level of D-dimer above 5.67 μg/mL was independently predictive of increased in-hospital mortality among 144 individuals with acute aortic dissection (OR=3.272; 95% CI: 1.638 to 6.535).[21]

D-Dimer in Sepsis

  • Increased level of D-dimer is correlated with worsening severity and death. For instance, according to one study higher D-dimer levels were correlated with high risk of 28 day mortality such as the odds ratio are 2.07 (CI=95%) and 3.03 (CI=95%) in patients having a D-dimer level >1180 and >2409 respectively.[22]


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