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Clinical features, diagnosis, and treatment of disseminated intravascular coagulation in adults

Lawrence LK Leung, MD
Section Editor
Pier Mannuccio Mannucci, MD
Deputy Editor
Jennifer S Tirnauer, MD


Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC, also called consumption coagulopathy and defibrination syndrome) is a systemic process with the potential for causing thrombosis and hemorrhage. It can present as an acute, life-threatening emergency or a chronic, subclinical process, depending on the degree and tempo of the process and the contribution of morbidities from the underlying cause. Identifying DIC and the underlying condition responsible for it are critical to proper management.  

This topic discusses the pathogenesis, clinical manifestations, diagnosis, treatment, and prognosis of DIC in adults. DIC in children and during pregnancy are discussed in detail separately. (See "Disseminated intravascular coagulation in infants and children" and "Disseminated intravascular coagulation during pregnancy".)

Separate topic reviews also discuss general approaches to evaluating patients with abnormal bleeding and unexplained microangiopathic hemolytic anemia and thrombocytopenia. (See "Approach to the adult patient with a bleeding diathesis" and "Approach to the patient with suspected TTP, HUS, or other thrombotic microangiopathy (TMA)".)


Intravascular coagulation and fibrinolysis — Normal hemostasis ensures formation of a blood clot at the site of vessel injury, followed by resolution of the clot to allow tissue repair. There are multiple feedbacks built into this system to prevent activation of coagulation in the absence of vessel injury and restrict the clot to the site of injury. (See "Overview of hemostasis".)

In DIC, the processes of coagulation and fibrinolysis become abnormally (and often massively) activated within the vasculature, leading to ongoing coagulation and fibrinolysis.


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Literature review current through: Sep 2016. | This topic last updated: Aug 23, 2016.
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