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Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)

Contents of this page:


Blood clot formation
Blood clot formation
Meningococcemia on the calves
Meningococcemia on the calves
Meningococcemia on the leg
Meningococcemia on the leg
Meningococcemia associated purpura
Meningococcemia associated purpura
Blood clots
Blood clots

Alternative Names    Return to top

Consumption coagulopathy

Definition    Return to top

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a serious disorder in which the proteins that control blood clotting become abnormally active.

Causes    Return to top

Normally, when you are injured, certain proteins in the blood become activated and travel to the injury site to help stop bleeding. However, in persons with DIC, these proteins become abnormally active.

Small blood clots form within the blood vessels. Some of these clots can clog up the vessels and cut off blood supply to various organs such as the liver or kidney. These organs will then stop functioning. Over time, the clotting proteins become "used up." When this happens, the person is then at risk for serious bleeding from even a minor injury.

This disorder can result in clots or, more often, in bleeding. The bleeding can be severe.

Risk factors for DIC include:

Symptoms    Return to top

Exams and Tests    Return to top

The following tests may be done:

Treatment    Return to top

The goal is to determine and treat the underlying cause of DIC.

Blood clotting factors will be replaced with plasma transfusions. Heparin, a medication used to prevent clotting, is sometimes used also.

Outlook (Prognosis)    Return to top

The outcome depends on what is causing the disorder.

Possible Complications    Return to top

When to Contact a Medical Professional    Return to top

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have bleeding that won't stop.

Prevention    Return to top

Get prompt treatment for conditions known to bring on this disorder.

References    Return to top

Levi M. Disseminated intravascular coagulation: What's new? Crit Care Clin. Jul 2005; 21(3): 449-67.

DeLoughery TG. Critical care clotting catastrophies. Crit Care Clin. Jul 2005; 21(3): 531-62.

Gando S. A multicenter, prospective validation of disseminated intravascular coagulation diagnostic criteria for critically ill patients: comparing current criteria. Crit Care Med. Mar 2006; 34(3): 625-31.

Update Date: 5/19/2008

Updated by: Sean O. Stitham, MD, private practice in Internal Medicine, Seattle, WA; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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