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Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Jun 6, 2022.

What is disseminated intravascular coagulation?

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a condition that prevents your body from controlling blood clotting and bleeding. Initially, blood clots form in many areas of your body. Your body responds by overproducing an agent to break down the blood clots. This leads to excessive bleeding, which can be life-threatening.

What increases my risk for DIC?

  • Blood vessel problems, such as a large aneurysm (sac formed by an area of a blood vessel)
  • Immune or toxic reactions, such as blood transfusion reaction, transplant rejection, or snake bite
  • Severe infection or sepsis
  • Pregnancy complications, such as the tearing of your placenta, or fetus retention
  • Trauma, such as a car accident
  • Severe liver disease or swelling of the pancreas
  • Certain cancers

What are the signs and symptoms of DIC?

  • Bleeding from your gums or blood in your urine or bowel movements
  • Nosebleeds or coughing up blood
  • Pregnant women will continue to bleed large amounts after delivery
  • Seizures or hallucinations
  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Decrease in the amount you urinate
  • Skin changes, such as bruises, purple-colored patches of bruising, or pinpoint reddish spots on your body

How is DIC diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will ask about your medical and family health history. He or she will ask about the medicines you take and do a physical exam. Several blood tests will be done. There is no specific test for DIC.

How is DIC treated?

You may be admitted to the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) for treatment and close monitoring of your condition. You may need any of the following:

  • Medicines such as antibiotics and activated protein C may be used for infections. Heparin and antithrombin may be used to help with coagulation problems.
  • Transfusions of packed red blood cells or blood parts such as platelets may be needed to help replace blood.
  • Surgery may be needed to remove tumors or a retained placenta, or to repair bleeding blood vessels.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • You have chest pain or trouble breathing.
  • You cough up blood.
  • Your arm or leg feels warm, tender, and painful. It may also look swollen and red.

Care Agreement

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