Pulmonary embolism is one of the leading causes of death due to cardiovascular disease. Timely diagnosis is crucial, but challenging, as the clinical presentation of pulmonary embolism is unspecific and easily mistaken for other common medical emergencies. Clinical prediction rules and D-dimer measurement allow stratification of patients into groups of expected prevalence and are key elements in adequate selection of patients for diagnostic imaging; however, the strengths and weaknesses of the multiple proposed prediction rules, when to measure D-dimer, and which cutoff to apply might be elusive to a significant proportion of physicians. 13 international guidelines authored by medical societies or expert author groups provide recommendations on facets of the diagnostic investigations in suspected pulmonary embolism, some of which are hallmarked by pronounced heterogeneity. This Review summarises key recommendations of each guideline, considers the most recent evidence on the topic, compares guideline recommendations on each facet of the diagnosis of pulmonary embolism, and provides a synthesis on the most common recommendations.