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Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC)

  • 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. This often occurs due to inflammation, infection, or cancer.

    Small blood clots form in the blood vessels. Some of these clots can clog up the vessels and cut off blood supply to various organs such as the liver, brain, or kidney. These organs will then be damaged and may stop functioning.

    Over time, the clotting proteins are consumed or "used up." When this happens, the person is then at risk for serious bleeding, even from a minor injury or without injury. This process may also break up healthy red blood cells.

    Risk factors for DIC include:

    • Blood transfusion reaction
    • Cancer, especially certain types of leukemia
    • Infection in the blood by bacteria or fungus
    • Liver disease
    • Pregnancy complications (such as placenta that is left behind after delivery)
    • Recent surgery or anesthesia
    • Sepsis (a serious infection)
    • Severe tissue injury (as in burns and head injury)