BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Acute generalized, widespread bleeding is often related to disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC), a pathologic process which complicates the clinical course of many diseases and is characterized by huge amounts of thrombin and plasmin within the circulation. The final result is the consumption of platelets, coagulation factors and inhibitors, as well as secondary hyperfibrinolysis, all leading to diffuse hemorrhage and microthromboses. This review article examines the present attitudes to the diagnosis and treatment of overt DIC in clinical practice, emphasizing the importance of an accurate differential diagnosis from some other processes characterized by acute generalized, widespread bleeding.
INFORMATION SOURCES: The authors have been working in this field, both at experimental and clinical levels, contributing original papers for many years. In addition, material examined in this review includes articles published in journals covered by MedLine, recent reviews in journals with high impact factor and in relevant books on hemostasis and thrombosis.
STATE OF ART AND PERSPECTIVES: DIC is an intermediary mechanism of disease which complicates the clinical course of many well-known disorders. Although the systemic hemorrhagic syndrome is the predominant clinical manifestation, massive intravascular thrombosis frequently occurs contributing to ischemia and associated organ damage, making the mortality rate of this condition high. Current concepts on the pathophysiology, laboratory diagnosis and management of DIC are presented. Complex pathophysiological interrelations make the diagnosis of the etiology of the DIC difficult in clinical practice, although simple tests are useful for identification of patients with the process. Laboratory diagnosis of DIC is mainly based on screening assays, which allow a rapid diagnosis, whereas some other highly sensitive but more complex assays are not always available to routine clinical laboratories. The management of DIC is based on the treatment of the underlying disease, supportive and replacement therapies and the control of the coagulation mechanisms. Although some advances have been achieved, management decisions are still controversial, so that therapy should be highly individualized depending on the nature of the DIC and severity of clinical symptoms. Many syndromes sharing common findings with DIC, such as primary hyperfibrinolysis or thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, should be excluded. Finally, new therapeutic approaches to the management of this potentially catastrophic syndrome are required