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How Is Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation Diagnosed?

Your doctor will diagnose disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC) based on your medical history, a physical exam, and test results. Your doctor also will look for the cause of DIC.

Acute DIC requires emergency treatment. The condition can be life threatening if it's not treated right away. If you have signs or symptoms of severe bleeding or blood clots, call 9–1–1 right away.

Medical History and Physical Exam

Your doctor will ask whether you have or have had any diseases or conditions that can trigger DIC. For more information about these diseases and conditions, go to "What Causes Disseminated Intravascular Coagulation?"

Your doctor will ask about signs and symptoms of blood clots and bleeding. He or she also will do a physical exam to look for signs and symptoms of blood clots and internal and external bleeding. For example, your doctor may look for bleeding from your gums.

Diagnostic Tests

To diagnose DIC, your doctor may recommend blood tests to look at your blood cells and the clotting process. For these tests, a small amount of blood is drawn from a blood vessel, usually in your arm.

Complete Blood Count and Blood Smear

A complete blood count (CBC) measures the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets in your blood.

Platelets are blood cell fragments that help with blood clotting. Abnormal platelet numbers may be a sign of a bleeding disorder (not enough clotting) or a thrombotic disorder (too much clotting).

A blood smear is a test that may reveal whether your red blood cells are damaged.

Tests for Clotting Factors and Clotting Time

The following tests examine the proteins active in the blood clotting process and how long it takes them to form a blood clot.

  • PT and PTT tests. These tests measure how long it takes blood clots to form.
  • Serum fibrinogen. Fibrinogen is a protein that helps the blood clot. This test measures how much fibrinogen is in your blood.
  • Fibrin degradation. After blood clots dissolve, substances called fibrin degradation products are left behind in the blood. This test measures the amount of these substances in the blood.
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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.

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