Open Access Open Badges Original clinical investigation

Influenza infection and risk of acute pulmonary embolism

Matthijs van Wissen12*, Tymen T Keller1, Brechje Ronkes1, Victor EA Gerdes12, Hans L Zaaijer3, Eric CM van Gorp2, Dees PM Brandjes2, Marcel Levi1 and Harry R Büller1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Vascular Medicine, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

2 Department of Internal Medicine, Slotervaart Hospital, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

3 Department of Microbiology, Academic Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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Thrombosis Journal 2007, 5:16  doi:10.1186/1477-9560-5-16

Published: 16 October 2007



Influenza infections have been associated with procoagulant changes. Whether influenza infections lead to an increased risk of pulmonary embolism remains to be established.


We conducted a nested case control study in a large cohort of patients with a clinical suspicion of having pulmonary embolism. Blood samples were collected to investigate the presence of influenza A and B by complement fixation assay (CFA). We compared case patients, in whom pulmonary embolism was proven (n = 102), to controls, in whom pulmonary embolism was excluded (n = 395). Furthermore, we compared symptoms of influenza-like illness in both patient groups 2 weeks prior to inclusion in the study, using the influenza-like illness (ILI) score, which is based on a questionnaire. We calculated the risk of pulmonary embolism associated with influenza infection.


The percentage of patients with influenza A was higher in the control group compared to the case group (4.3% versus 1.0%, respectively, odds ratio 0.22; 95% CI: 0.03–1.72). Influenza B was not detectable in any of the cases and was found in 3 of the 395 controls (0.8%). The ILI score was positive in 24% of the cases and 25% in the control persons (odds ratio 1.16, 95% CI: 0.67–2.01). We did not observe an association between the ILI score and proven influenza infection.


In this clinical study, influenza infection was not associated with an increased risk of acute pulmonary embolism. The ILI score is non-specific in this clinical setting.