Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)

Author: OncoLink Team
Last Reviewed:

Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC) is a disorder associated with excessive bleeding and/or excess thrombin generation (causing excess clotting). Normally, the body makes blood clots when they are needed to stop bleeding. In DIC, the body is making many inappropriate clots throughout the body. This uses up the body’s clotting factors (components needed to make a clot), which leads to bleeding. In addition, these clots can block blood flow to organs, leading to organ failure. Cancer can trigger DIC, particularly certain types of leukemia. DIC can also be related to sepsis (blood stream infection).

DIC is considered an "oncologic emergency", which is an acute health problem caused by the cancer itself or its treatment. Oncologic emergencies require immediate treatment.

Symptoms of DIC include:

  • Excessive bruising and bleeding (bleeding from gums, nose, rectal or vaginal bleeding).
  • Multiple blood clots.
  • Petechiae or red dots on the surface of the skin.

DIC is diagnosed through blood testing, including CBC (complete blood count), platelet count, prothrombin time (PT), partial thromboplastin time (PTT), fibrin degradation product, d-dimer, and serum fibrinogen.

Management

DIC is a medical emergency. Treatment is dependent on the underlying cause of the disorder. DIC treatment focuses on supportive care measures including transfusions of platelets, clotting factors and cryoprecipitate replacement in an attempt to stop bleeding. This supportive care would be happening while treatment for the cancer (or other underlying cause) is being done.

When to talk with your care team

If you are experiencing any DIC related symptoms, contact your care team immediately.

Resources for further reading:

Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation from the US National Library of Medicine.

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