Navigate Up

Neurology Center - A-Z Index

#
J
Q
X
Y
Z

Print This Page

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)

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

Alternative Names

Consumption coagulopathy; DIC

Causes

When you are injured, proteins in the blood that form blood clots travel to the injury site to help stop bleeding. If you have DIC, these proteins become abnormally active throughout the body. This may be due to inflammation, infection, or cancer.

Small blood clots form in the blood vessels. Some of these clots can clog the vessels and cut off blood supply to organs such as the liver, brain, or kidneys. Lack of blood flow can damage the organ and it may stop working properly.

Over time, the clotting proteins in your blood are consumed or "used up." When this happens, you 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 healthy red blood cells to break up when they travel through the small vessels that are filled with clots.

Risk factors for DIC include:

  • Blood transfusion reaction
  • Cancer, especially certain types of leukemia
  • Inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis)
  • Infection in the blood, especially by bacteria or fungus
  • Pregnancy complications (such as placenta that is left behind after delivery)
  • Recent surgery or anesthesia
  • Severe tissue injury (as in burns and head injury)
  • Large hemangioma (a blood vessel that is not formed properly)

Symptoms

  • Bleeding, possibly from many sites in the body
  • Blood clots
  • Bruising
  • Drop in blood pressure

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:

  • Plasma transfusions to replace blood clotting factors if a large amount of bleeding is occurring
  • Blood thinner medicine (heparin) to prevent blood clotting if a large amount of clotting is occurring

Outlook (Prognosis)

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

Possible Complications

  • Bleeding
  • Lack of blood flow to the arms, legs, or vital organs
  • Stroke

Calling your health care provider

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.

References

Levi M. Disseminated intravascular coagulation. In: Hoffman R, Benz EJ Jr, Silberstein LE, et al., eds. Hematology: Basic Principles and Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 141.

Thachil J, Toh CH. Current concepts in the management of disseminated intravascular coagulation. Thromb Res. 2012;129 Suppl 1:S54-S59.

Updated: 10/30/2013

Yi-Bin Chen, MD, Leukemia/Bone Marrow Transplant Program, Massachusetts General Hospital. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.


¬©  UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences
Supplemental content provided by A.D.A.M. Health Solutions. All rights reserved.

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on UPMC.com is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, UPMC.com is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

For UPMC Mercy Patients: As a Catholic hospital, UPMC Mercy abides by the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services, as determined by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. As such, UPMC Mercy neither endorses nor provides medical practices and/or procedures that contradict the moral teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.

© UPMC
Pittsburgh, PA, USA UPMC.com