Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation


Know the basics

What is disseminated intravascular coagulation?

Disseminated intravascular coagulation, or DIC, is a condition in which blood clots form throughout the body’s small blood vessels. These blood clots can reduce or block blood flow through the blood vessels, which can damage the body’s organs.

In DIC, the increased clotting uses up platelets and clotting factors in the blood. Platelets are blood cell fragments that stick together to seal small cuts and breaks on blood vessel walls and stop bleeding. Clotting factors are proteins needed for normal blood clotting.

With fewer platelets and clotting factors in the blood, serious bleeding can occur. DIC can cause internal and external bleeding.

Internal bleeding occurs inside the body. External bleeding occurs underneath or from the skin or mucosa. (The mucosa is the tissue that lines some organs and body cavities, such as your nose and mouth.)

DIC can cause life-threatening bleeding.

How common is disseminated intravascular coagulation?

Disseminated intravascular coagulation can affect patients at any age. It can be managed by reducing your risk factors. Please discuss with your doctor for further information.


What are the symptoms of disseminated intravascular coagulation?

Bleeding, sometimes from multiple locations on the body, is one of the more common symptoms of DIC. Bleeding from the mucosal tissue (in the mouth and nose), and bleeding from other external areas may occur. In addition, DIC may cause internal bleeding.

Other symptoms are:

  • Blood clots
  • Decreased blood pressure
  • Easy bruising
  • Rectal or vaginal bleeding
  • Red dots on the surface of the skin (petechiae)

If you have cancer, DIC generally begins slowly, and clotting in the veins is more common than excessive bleeding.

There may be some symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have any signs or symptoms listed above or have any questions, please consult with your doctor. Everyone’s body acts differently. It is always best to discuss with your doctor what is best for your situation.


What causes disseminated intravascular coagulation?

When the proteins used in your normal clotting process become overly active, it can cause DIC. Infection, severe trauma (such as brain injuries or crushing injuries), inflammation, surgery, and cancer are all known to contribute to this condition.

Some less common causes of DIC include the following:

  • Extremely low body temperature (hypothermia)
  • Venomous snake bites
  • Pancreatitis
  • Burns
  • Complications during pregnancy

You may also develop DIC if you go into shock.

Risk factors

What increases my risk for disseminated intravascular coagulation?

There are many risk factors for disseminated intravascular coagulation, such as:

  • Undergone surgery
  • Delivered a baby
  • Had an incomplete miscarriage
  • Had a blood transfusion
  • Had anesthesia
  • Had sepsis or any other fungal or bacterial blood infection
  • Had certain types of cancer, especially certain types of leukemia
  • Had serious tissue damage such as a head injury, burns, or trauma
  • Had liver disease

Diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.


How is disseminated intravascular coagulation diagnosed?

DIC may be identified through various tests related to your levels of platelets, clotting factors, and other blood components. However, there is not a standard procedure. The following are some tests that may be conducted if your doctor suspects DIC.

  • Fibrin degradation product
  • Complete blood cell count (CBC) from a blood smear
  • Complete blood cell count (CBC) from sample
  • Platelet count
  • Partial thromboplastin time
  • D-dimer test
  • Serum fibrinogen
  • Prothrombin time

How is disseminated intravascular coagulation treated?

DIC treatment depends on what is causing the disorder. Determination and treatment of the underlying cause are the main goal. To treat the clotting problem, you may be given an anticoagulant called heparin to reduce and prevent clotting. However, heparin may not be administered if you have a severe lack of platelets or are bleeding too excessively.

People with acute DIC require hospitalization, often in an intensive care unit (ICU), where treatment will attempt to correct the problem causing the DIC while maintaining the function of the organs.

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.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage disseminated intravascular coagulation?

If you have disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), ask your doctor how often you should schedule follow-up care and blood tests. Blood tests help track how well your blood is clotting.

You may need to take blood-thinning medicines (blood thinners) to help prevent blood clots or to keep existing clots from getting larger. If you take blood thinners, let everyone on your health care team know. Blood thinners may thin your blood too much and cause bleeding. A lot of bleeding after a fall or injury or easy bruising or bleeding may mean that your blood is too thin.

Also, you should talk with your doctor before using any over-the-counter medicines or products, such as vitamins, supplements, or herbal remedies. Some of these products also can affect blood clotting and bleeding. For example, aspirin and ibuprofen may thin your blood too much. This can increase your risk of bleeding.

If you need surgery, your doctor may adjust the amount of medicine you take before, during, and after the surgery to prevent bleeding. This also may happen for dental work, but it’s less common.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Review Date: February 11, 2017 | Last Modified: February 13, 2017

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