Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation
What is disseminated intravascular coagulation?
Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation Care Guide
Disseminated intravascular coagulation is also called DIC. It is a condition that may cause serious problems with bleeding or blood flow. It happens when the blood clotting agents (platelets and certain proteins) in the blood become over-active. Platelets are blood cells that help stop bleeding by sticking together to form a clot. With DIC, the platelets and blood proteins coagulate (form clots) throughout your body. When they are used up fast in this way, you may get uncontrolled bleeding. You may also have blockage of blood flow to vital organs in your body. DIC is always caused by another medical condition. Your health, quality of life, and ability to function may decrease without treatment.
What causes DIC?
This condition may be caused by any of the following:
- Blood vessel problems, such as an aneurysm (sac formed by an area of a blood vessel).
- Immune disorders, such as a severe allergic or blood transfusion reaction. If you received a new organ, such as a kidney, you may get transplant rejection. This is when your immune system attacks the new organ.
- Bacterial, viral, fungal and parasitic infections.
- Problems with pregnancy and giving birth. This may be a placenta that separates from the uterus (womb) before the baby is born. This is called a partial (previa) or complete (abruption) separation of the placenta. The placenta is the tissue connecting you and your baby in the womb. Ask your caregiver for more information about placenta previa or abruptio placenta.
- Severe head or other injuries, such as from being in a car accident.
- Severe liver disease or swelling of the pancreas.
- Other causes may include:
- Burn injury or near-drowning.
- Cancers, such as solid tumors and leukemias (blood cancer).
- Chemotherapy (medicines used to treat cancer).
- Heart attack or cardiac arrest.
- Heat stroke or frost bite.
- Over-use of street drugs.
- Poisoning from animal bites, such as snakes.
- Burn injury or near-drowning.
What are the signs and symptoms of DIC?
You may have any of the following:
- Bleeding. You may lose of a large amount of blood very quickly. This bleeding may cause a big decrease in your blood pressure. You may bleed from your nose or gums. You may see blood (red if new blood, black if old blood) in your vomit or bowel movements. You may also have blood in your urine, coloring it pink or red. Women may have bleeding from the vagina (birth canal).
- Confusion or trouble thinking.
- Cough or trouble breathing.
- Decrease in the amount of your urine.
- Skin changes, such as bruises, purple-colored patches of bruising, or pinpoint reddish spots on your body. You may also have areas of swelling filled with blood. Your skin may take on a yellow color (jaundice).
How is DIC diagnosed?
Your caregiver will ask you about any recent infections, surgeries, or diseases you may have had. He may also ask about your family health history, and any medicines you had taken or are presently taking. He will also do a complete physical exam on you. Blood may be taken and sent to the lab for tests.
How is DIC treated?
Treatment is aimed at treating the problem or disease causing your DIC. You may be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for treatment and close monitoring of your condition. You may be given antibiotic medicines if you have an infection. Blood or parts of your blood, such as platelets, may need to be replaced (transfusion). If you have a tumor, you may need surgery to remove it. Women who have given birth but the placenta did not come out may need surgery. This surgery will remove any of the placenta left inside. Your DIC will not get better until the condition causing it is treated. Your caregiver may also give you medicines to relieve your symptoms. Ask your caregiver about other treatments, procedures, or surgery that you may need. Ask your caregiver for more information about blood transfusions.
What are the risks of having and being treated for DIC?
- Medicine used to treat DIC may cause nausea (upset stomach), vomiting (throwing up), headache, flushing, fast heartbeat, or seizures (convulsions). Having blood or parts of blood replaced may cause a transfusion reaction. A transfusion reaction happens if your immune system starts to attack the blood you have been given. Your caregivers will be there to watch out for these problems.
- With DIC you may be at a higher risk of getting a blood clot in your leg or arm. This can cause pain and swelling, and it can stop blood from flowing where it needs to go in your body. The blood clot can break loose and travel to your lungs or brain. A blood clot in your lungs can cause chest pain and trouble breathing. A blood clot in your brain can cause a stroke. These problems can be life-threatening.
- If your DIC is left untreated, it may lead to severe (very bad) bleeding and other life-threatening problems. You can also have a lack of blood flow to your organs or other parts of your body from clots that form. This may damage your organs or lead to tissue death (gangrene). Gangrene in your fingers, hands, toes, or feet may require surgical removal (amputation) of the injured part. Ask your caregiver if you are worried or have questions about your disease, treatment, or care. Ask your caregiver for more information about blood transfusions.
Where can I get support and more information?
Having DIC may be life-changing for you and your family. Accepting that you have DIC may be hard. You and those close to you may feel sad, angry, or scared. These are normal feelings. Talk to your caregivers, family, or friends about your feelings. Contact the following for more information:
- American Academy of Family Physicians
11400 Tomahawk Creek Parkway
Leawood , KS 66211-2680
Phone: 1- 913 - 906-6000
Phone: 1- 800 - 274-2237
Web Address: http://www.aafp.org
You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment.
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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.
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