Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC): Symptoms, Diagnosis, and Treatment

May 8, 2019

Disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC is a medical condition that makes the proteins controlling the development of blood coagulation or clots more active. It is a serious medical condition that may result in multiple organ dysfunction. This is due to the development of blood clots and eventually severe bleeding. The excessive bleeding caused by disseminated intravascular coagulation can result in dangerous hemorrhaging if left untreated. DIC may be caused by the progression of various other medical conditions. It is considered an underlying and secondary condition and usually identified with other illnesses.

The said illnesses usually cause the activation of DIC through the activation of the body’s inflammatory response. Some of these illnesses include adverse transfusion reactions, sepsis, organ disorders/destruction, embolism of the amniotic fluid, hemolysis, abruptio placentae and eclampsia. It may also inclide vascular abnormalities such as vascular aneurysms and Kasabach-Merritt Syndrome, hyperthermia and heat stroke, catastrophic antiphospholipid syndrome and hemorrhagic skin necrosis.


Symptoms of Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation (DIC)

As stated earlier, DIC is usually a secondary condition and is caused by other underlying conditions. Based on these underlying conditions, DIC may have different signs and symptoms that present themselves in the different parts of the patient’s body. Listed below are some of these signs and symptoms of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC):

Circulatory Signs and Symptoms

Doctors may look for circulatory signs of disseminated intravascular coagulation. These are subacute bleeding, life-threatening and sudden hemorrhage, localized or diffused thrombosis and bleeding in serous cavities.

Central Nervous System (CNS) Signs or Symptoms

Health professionals will normally look for central nervous system signs and symptoms of disseminated intravascular coagulation. These are transient focal neurologic deficits and nonspecific altered consciousness or stupor.

Cardiovascular Signs or Symptoms

Doctors should look for cardiovascular signs and symptoms of disseminated intravascular coagulation or DIC by checking the patient for tachycardia, hypotension, and the collapse of the circulatory system.

Respiratory Signs or Symptoms

Health professionals should look for respiratory signs and symptoms of disseminated intravascular coagulation by checking the patient for acute respiratory distress syndrome or ARDS and a pleural friction rub.

Gastrointestinal Signs or Symptoms

The patient’s health partner should look for gastrointestinal signs or symptoms of disseminated intravascular coagulation by checking the patient for hematochezia and hematemesis.

Genitourinary Signs or Symptoms

Doctors should look for patients with acidosis, uterine hemorrhage, oliguria, azotemia, kidney failure, hematuria, and metrorrhagia.

Dermatologic Signs or Symptoms

Health professionals should look for dermatologic signs or symptoms by checking the patient for jaundice. This is caused by liver dysfunction, hemorrhagic bullae, skin necrosis of the patient’s lower extremities also known as purpura fulminans and infarction. They may also have gangrene that is considered localized, bleeding wounds, thrombosis, and deep subcutaneous hematomas.


How is Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation Diagnosed?

DIC may be difficult and challenging to diagnose for doctors and health professionals as the said illness may just be a secondary or associated condition of an underlying ailment. Also, laboratory tests tend to be highly sensitive towards DIC but may not be that specific. However, there are various laboratory tests that may be utilized by the patient’s health partner to help diagnose DIC. Below are some of these tests:

Platelet Count

The platelet count of patients with disseminated intravascular coagulation may have a low platelet count. This greatly reduced levels of platelets may be an indicator of DIC but it is not specific enough to rule out the said health condition. Another part of the platelet count is the peripheral blood smear which can indicate a presence of schistocytes. The presence of schistocytes may also result in a diagnosis of chronic disseminated intravascular coagulation.

Coagulation Factors and Clotting Times

A prolonged or delayed clotting time for patients may indicate disseminated intravascular coagulation. However, while patients may have prolonged clotting times, this may not be used to exclusively identify disseminated intravascular coagulation and other factors should be checked and further tests should be conducted to identify and diagnose DIC.

Tests that are customized and specialized to detect disseminated intravascular coagulation

Doctors and healthcare professionals may look into and use specialized tests to detect and diagnose DIC. Certain markers in the body’s molecules such as increased fibrin and the activation of coagulation properties are some of the most specific assays or tests for DIC. Another marker to look out for to identify and diagnose DIC. Thrombomodulin as an increased level of the said marker may be used to diagnose the said health condition. It may also be used as an early detection tool for the identification and monitoring DIC.


How is disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) Treated?

Some of the treatments for disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) may seem straightforward and simple enough. however,  these treatments are recommended by health professionals as they have been proven to help patients with the alleviation of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) symptoms. Listed below are some common treatments for disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC):

Direct treatment of the ailment causing disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)

As mentioned earlier, disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is commonly a secondary and resulting illness caused by an underlying illness. Treating the causal illness should theoretically address the symptoms and adverse health effects of disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).

Replacement Therapy for platelets

Since DIC may cause severe bleeding and the consequent depletion of platelets, replacement therapy may be also used to improve the quality of life and overall wellness of patients.

While DIC may seem like an insurmountable illness due to the life-threatening symptoms it can sometimes have, patients who work closely with their doctors for early detection and monitoring of DIC can also have a better chance of addressing this health condition. Finally, this will lead to the subsequent recovery of the patient.

disseminated intravascular coagulation