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Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)

Consumption coagulopathy; DIC

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

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Blood clot formation
Meningococcemia on the calves
Blood clots

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Causes

When you are injured, proteins in the blood that form blood clots travel to the injury site to help stop bleeding. If these proteins become abnormally active throughout the body, you could develop DIC. The underlying cause is usually due to inflammation, infection, or cancer.

In some cases of DIC, small blood clots form in the blood vessels. Some of these clots can clog the vessels and cut off the normal blood supply to organs such as the liver, brain, or kidneys. Lack of blood flow can damage and cause major injury to the organs.

In other cases of DIC, the clotting proteins in your blood are consumed. When this happens, you may have a high risk of serious bleeding, even from a minor injury or without injury. You may also have bleeding that starts spontaneously (on its own). The disease can also cause your healthy red blood cells to fragment and break up when they travel through the small vessels that are filled with clots.

Risk factors for DIC include:

Symptoms

Symptoms of DIC may include any of the following:

Exams and Tests

You may have any of the following tests:

Treatment

There is no specific treatment for DIC. The goal is to determine and treat the underlying cause of DIC.

Supportive treatments may include:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Outcome depends on what is causing the disorder. DIC can be life threatening.

Possible Complications

Complications from DIC may include:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have bleeding that does not stop.

Prevention

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

Related Information

Blood clots
Sepsis
Hemolytic transfusion reaction
Liver disease
Mesenteric venous thrombosis

References

Napotilano M, Schmair AH, Kessler CM. Coagulation and fibrinolysis. In: McPherson RA, Pincus MR, eds. Henry's Clinical Diagnosis and Management by Laboratory Methods. 23rd ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2017:chap 39.

Schafer AI. Hemorrhagic disorders: disseminated intravascular coagulation, liver failure, and vitamin K deficiency. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 25th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2016:chap 175.

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Review Date: 10/21/2017  

Reviewed By: Todd Gersten, MD, Hematology/Oncology, Florida Cancer Specialists & Research Institute, Wellington, FL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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