Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a problem with how your blood clots. DIC causes blood clots to form in small blood vessels. These clots can slow or block the flow of blood through these vessels. The organs and tissue that rely on this blood flow can then be damaged.
Blood clots are made of platelets and clotting factors. The blood clots caused by DIC decrease the body's platelets and clotting factor. This could lead to bleeding in other areas of the body.
DIC may be acute or chronic. Acute DIC develops over a few hours or days. It can quickly lead to bleeding problems. Chronic DIC can develop over months. Chronic DIC develops blood clots but rarely leads to bleeding problems. DIC is a life-threatening condition that must be treated right away.
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DIC has several causes, which include cancer and other medical conditions, like a serious infection or organ damage. It can also be caused by complications from pregnancy or an injury from an accident. The trauma or inflammation caused by these conditions stimulates changes in the blood clotting process.
Rarely, DIC can be caused by toxins from poisonous snake bites.
Factors that may increase your chance of DIC include:
Symptoms of DIC can vary because the blood clots can occur throughout the body. Clots in the:
Bleeding is often the first sign in acute DIC. Signs of bleeding include:
If you have bleeding that does not stop or unexplained bleeding, call for emergency medical services right away.
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. Blood tests will also be done to look for abnormal levels of clotting factors and platelets.
The underlying cause of DIC will need to be identified and treated. These treatments will vary by conditions.
To help manage the DIC itself your doctor may advise:
Prompt treatment for any of the conditions associated with DIC may reduce your risk for DIC.
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Society for Vascular Surgery
Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:https://www.dynamed.com/condition/disseminated-intravascular-coagulation-dic-in-adults. Accessed September 14, 2019.
Explore disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). National Heart Lung and Blood Institute website. Available at: https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/dic. Accessed September 14, 2019.
White NJ. Mechanisms of trauma-induced coagulopathy. Hematology Am Soc Educ Program. 2013;2013:660-663.
Last reviewed September 2020 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Michael J. Fucci, DO, FACC