Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)
What is disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)?
The body makes blood clots when they are needed to stop bleeding. In disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), the body makes clots throughout the body when they are not needed. This uses up the body’s clotting factors (the parts of blood needed to make a clot), which leads to bleeding. These clots can also block blood flow to organs, leading to organ failure.
DIC is an oncologic emergency, which is a serious health problem caused by the cancer itself or its treatment. Oncologic emergencies need to be treated right away.
What causes DIC?
Cancer, injury, inflammation, and infection can cause DIC.
What are the symptoms of DIC?
Symptoms can include:
- Bruising more than normal and bleeding (bleeding from gums, nose, and rectal or vaginal bleeding).
- Multiple blood clots.
- Petechiae (red dots on the surface of the skin).
How is DIC diagnosed?
DIC is diagnosed through blood testing to check your CBC (complete blood count), platelet count, prothrombin time (PT), partial thromboplastin time (PTT), fibrin degradation product, d-dimer, and serum fibrinogen.
How is it treated?
Treatment depends on what is causing the DIC. The treatment focuses on supportive care measures, such as transfusions of platelets, clotting factors, and cryoprecipitate replacement to try to stop the bleeding. This supportive care is given at the same time as treatment for the cancer if that is the cause of DIC.
When should I contact my care team?
If you have any DIC related symptoms, such as abnormal bleeding or bruising, contact your care team right away.
MedLine Plus. Disseminated intravascular coagulation. (2019). https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000573.htm
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation. (2019). https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/disseminated-intravascular-coagulation