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Blood clot formation
Blood clot formation


Meningococcemia on the calves
Meningococcemia on the calves


Meningococcemia on the leg
Meningococcemia on the leg


Meningococcemia associated purpura
Meningococcemia associated purpura


Blood clots
Blood clots


Definition:

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a serious disorder in which the proteins that control blood clotting become abnormally active.



Alternative Names:

Consumption coagulopathy



Causes, incidence, and risk factors:

Normally, when you are injured, certain proteins in the blood become activated and travel to the injury site to help stop bleeding. However, in persons with DIC, these proteins become abnormally active.

Small blood clots form within the blood vessels. Some of these clots can clog up the vessels and cut off blood supply to various organs such as the liver or kidney. These organs will then stop functioning. Over time, the clotting proteins become "used up." When this happens, the person is then at risk for serious bleeding from even a minor injury.

This disorder can result in clots or, more often, in bleeding. The bleeding can be severe.

Risk factors for DIC include:

  • Blood transfusion reaction
  • Cancer, including leukemia
  • Infection in the blood by bacteria or fungus
  • Pregnancy complications (such as retained placenta after delivery)
  • Recent surgery or anesthesia
  • Sepsis (an overwhelming infection)
  • Severe liver disease
  • Severe tissue injury (as in burns and head injury)


Symptoms:
  • Bleeding, possibly from multiple sites in the body
  • Blood clots
  • Drop in blood pressure
  • Sudden bruising


Signs and tests:

The following tests may be done:



Treatment:

The goal is to determine and treat the underlying cause of DIC.

Blood clotting factors will be replaced with plasma transfusions. Heparin, a medication used to prevent clotting, is sometimes used also.



Support Groups:



Expectations (prognosis):

The outcome depends on what is causing the disorder.



Complications:
  • Lack of blood flow to arms, legs, or vital organs
  • Severe bleeding
  • Stroke


Calling your health care provider:

Go to the emergency room or call 911 if you have bleeding that won't stop.



Prevention:

Get prompt treatment for conditions known to bring on this disorder.



References:

Levi M. Disseminated intravascular coagulation: What's new? Crit Care Clin. 2005;21(3):449-467.

DeLoughery TG. Critical care clotting catastrophies. Crit Care Clin. 2005;21(3):531-562.

Gando S. A multicenter, prospective validation of disseminated intravascular coagulation diagnostic criteria for critically ill patients: comparing current criteria. Crit Care Med. 2006;34(3):625-631.




Review Date: 5/19/2008
Reviewed By: Sean O. Stitham, MD, private practice in Internal Medicine, Seattle, WA; Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Instructor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Massachusetts General Hospital. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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