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What Causes Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation?

Some diseases and conditions can disrupt the body's normal blood clotting process and lead to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC). These diseases and conditions include:

  • Sepsis (an infection in the bloodstream)
  • Surgery and trauma
  • Cancer
  • Serious complications of pregnancy and childbirth

Examples of less common causes of DIC are bites from poisonous snakes (such as rattlesnakes and other vipers), frostbite, and burns.

The two types of DIC are acute and chronic. Acute DIC begins with clotting in the small blood vessels and quickly leads to serious bleeding. Chronic DIC causes blood clotting, but it usually doesn't lead to bleeding. Cancer is the most common cause of chronic DIC.

Similar Clotting Conditions

Two other conditions cause blood clotting in the small blood vessels. However, their causes and treatments differ from those of DIC.

These conditions are thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura (throm-BOT-ik throm-bo-cy-toe-PEE-nick PURR-purr-ah), or TTP, and hemolytic-uremic syndrome (HUS). HUS is more common in children than adults. It's also more likely to cause kidney damage than TTP.

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November 02, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.