Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation - DIC

  • Diagnosis
  • Background
  • Lab Tests
  • References
  • Related Topics

Indications for Testing

  • Patient with risk factors for disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) in conjunction with bleeding or thrombocytopenia
  • Underlying disorder with known DIC association

Criteria for Diagnosis

Laboratory Testing

  • CBC –  thrombocytopenia usually present (may be normal in early DIC)
  • Clotting times
    • Prothrombin time (PT) and partial thromboplastin time (PTT) – prolonged (may be normal in early or chronic DIC)
    • Thrombin time (TT) – may be increased due to consumption of fibrinogen
  • D-dimer – increased in acute and chronic DIC (best single test)
    • Largely replaced fibrin degradation products (FDP) as a marker of coagulation
    • D-dimer measurements alone have excellent negative predictive value for DIC
    • Normal d-dimer essentially rules out DIC
    • Low specificity – elevations occur in numerous conditions (eg, pregnancy, deep vein thrombosis [DVT], malignancy)
  • Coagulation factors
    • Fibrinogen – decreased
      • As an acute phase reactant, fibrinogen might not decrease until DIC is severe
  • Refer to Anticoagulants and Possible Coagulation Test Interferences table for possible interferences with coagulation parameters based on the specific drug administered

Differential Diagnosis

Disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) is a disorder characterized by massive systemic activation of coagulation with consumption of platelets and coagulation proteins.


  • Incidence – >18,000 cases annually in U.S.

Risk Factors

  • Sepsis (bacterial, viral, fungal)
  • Trauma (polytrauma, fat embolism, burns)
  • Malignancy (solid tumorsacute leukemia)
  • Obstetric complications (abruptio placentae, placenta previa, amniotic fluid embolus)
  • Toxic reactions (eg, venomous snake bite)
  • Immunologic reactions (hemolytic transfusion reaction, transplant rejection)
  • Organ destruction (pancreatitishepatic failure)
  • Massive blood loss


  • Activation of coagulation pathways
    • Generation of thrombin and formation of fibrin in circulating blood
    • Consumption of coagulation factors and platelets
  • Activation of inflammatory pathways via cytokines
  • Suppression of physiologic anticoagulant pathways
  • Activation and/or impairment of fibrinolysis

Clinical Presentation

  • Generally occurs in the setting of a risk factor listed above
  • Hemorrhage – petechiae, purpura, epistaxis, mucous membrane bleeding
  • Thrombosis – may lead to organ failure
  • Chronic DIC – occurs in cancer patients
    • Primary sympton – thrombosis
    • Referred to as Trousseau syndrome
Tests generally appear in the order most useful for common clinical situations. Click on number for test-specific information in the ARUP Laboratory Test Directory.

CBC with Platelet Count 0040002
Method: Automated Cell Count

Prothrombin Time 0030215
Method: Electromagnetic Mechanical Clot Detection

Partial Thromboplastin Time 0030235
Method: Electromagnetic Mechanical Clot Detection

Thrombin Time with Reflex to Thrombin Time 1:1 Mix 0030260
Method: Electromagnetic Mechanical Clot Detection

D-Dimer 0030057
Method: Immunoturbidimetry


Presence of rheumatoid factor may lead to false-positive results

Test should not be used to rule out venous thromboembolism (VTE)

Fibrinogen 0030130
Method: Electromagnetic Mechanical Clot Detection


Angstwurm MW, Dempfle C, Spannagl M. New disseminated intravascular coagulation score: A useful tool to predict mortality in comparison with Acute Physiology and Chronic Health Evaluation II and Logistic Organ Dysfunction scores. Crit Care Med. 2006; 34(2): 314-20; quiz 328. PubMed

Di Nisio M, Baudo F, Cosmi B, D'Angelo A, De Gasperi A, Malato A, Schiavoni M, Squizzato A, Italian Society for Thrombosis and Haemostasis. Diagnosis and treatment of disseminated intravascular coagulation: guidelines of the Italian Society for Haemostasis and Thrombosis (SISET). Thromb Res. 2012; 129(5): e177-84. PubMed

Toh CH, Hoots WK, SSC on Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation of the ISTH. The scoring system of the Scientific and Standardisation Committee on Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation of the International Society on Thrombosis and Haemostasis: a 5-year overview. J Thromb Haemost. 2007; 5(3): 604-6. PubMed

General References

Cauchie P, Cauchie C, Boudjeltia Z, Carlier E, Deschepper N, Govaerts D, Migaud-Fressart M, Woodhams B, Brohée D. Diagnosis and prognosis of overt disseminated intravascular coagulation in a general hospital -- meaning of the ISTH score system, fibrin monomers, and lipoprotein-C-reactive protein complex formation. Am J Hematol. 2006; 81(6): 414-9. PubMed

Franchini M, Lippi G, Manzato F. Recent acquisitions in the pathophysiology, diagnosis and treatment of disseminated intravascular coagulation. Thromb J. 2006; 4(4): 1-9. PubMed

Levi M. Diagnosis and treatment of disseminated intravascular coagulation. Int J Lab Hematol. 2014; 36(3): 228-36. PubMed

Levi M. Disseminated intravascular coagulation. Crit Care Med. 2007; 35(9): 2191-5. PubMed

Olson JD. D-dimer: An Overview of Hemostasis and Fibrinolysis, Assays, and Clinical Applications. Adv Clin Chem. 2015; 69: 1-46. PubMed

Toh C, Downey C. Back to the future: testing in disseminated intravascular coagulation. Blood Coagul Fibrinolysis. 2005; 16(8): 535-42. PubMed

References from the ARUP Institute for Clinical and Experimental Pathology®

Lehman CM, Wilson LW, Rodgers GM. Analytic validation and clinical evaluation of the STA LIATEST immunoturbidimetric D-dimer assay for the diagnosis of disseminated intravascular coagulation. Am J Clin Pathol. 2004; 122(2): 178-84. PubMed

Ness P, Creer M, Rodgers GM, Naoum JJ, Renkens K, Voils SA, Alexander A, Recognition, Evaluation and Treatment of Acquired Coagulopathy Consensus (RETACC) Panel. Building an immune-mediated coagulopathy consensus: early recognition and evaluation to enhance post-surgical patient safety. Patient Saf Surg. 2009; 3(1): 8. PubMed

Medical Reviewers

Last Update: August 2017